The City of Vancouver is moving ahead with plans to eliminate the use of natural gas as a fuel, but the BC Liberals are fighting back against the controversial move, pledging to repeal the city’s ban if they are elected in May.
“Vancouver City Council wants to ban natural gas from the city and we think that is wrong and needlessly adds costs to consumers, home buyers and restaurateurs,” said BC Liberal candidate for Vancouver-Quilchena Andrew Wilkinson.
In July, the city faced a backlash after quietly voting in a plan that would ban natural gas in the city by 2050 — part of the city’s Renewable Energy Strategy.
The plan, which goes into effect on Monday, applies to new construction and buildings that are applying for rezoning. It’s part of a broader strategy that plans to completely eliminate the use of natural gas in the city.
During consideration of the policy, FortisBC sent a letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council, saying the policy is “impractical and has the potential to increase costs for energy users in the city, and stifle innovation over the long term.”
It added a family of four in Vancouver currently saves about $1,500 a year in energy costs by choosing natural gas over electricity for space and water heating.
“For the average family, we’re talking about $1,400 a year or more just in the energy bills from shifting to electricity, let alone ripping out furnaces or water heaters,” Jordan Bateman, former B.C. director of the Canaidna Taxpayers Association, said at the time. “Restaurants are going to be hurt if they use natural gas and schools are facing a $3.5 million bill in higher energy costs if they’re forced to move off natural gas.”
WATCH: In its efforts to become the greenest city in the world, Vancouver city council has moved to ban natural gas from homes and restaurants. Ted Chernecki has more on this controversial decision.
After an immediate backlash to reports of the plan, the city pushed back, urging what it had in mind did not constitute a “ban.”
Instead, it said the policy would “establish specific targets and actions to achieve zero emission in all new buildings by 2030.” It would not focus on retro-fitting older buildings or ask homeowners to replace their gas appliances. Restaurants would also continue to cook with natural gas.
However, the Renewable Energy Strategy describes the shift from non-renewable energy sources to renewable energy sources for buildings and transportation by 2050, explaining that the city will move from a current use of 46 per cent natural gas to zero per cent by 2050.
Energy would instead come from 60 per cent electricity, 15 per cent neighbourhood renewable energy systems, 14 per cent biofuels, 10 per cent biomethane and one per cent hydrogen. The policy also cuts out use of gasoline and diesel.
As the BC Liberals push forward with their plan to bring big liquefied natural gas (LNG) business to the province, the party is pledging to stop the city from carrying through with its policy.
READ MORE: Woodfibre LNG project in B.C. to proceed
“Today’s BC Liberals will ensure that natural gas remains an energy option for residents, restaurants and businesses in the City of Vancouver. While we all agree that climate change must be addressed, banning natural gas from the City of Vancouver at a huge cost to residents is not the way to go.”
Wilkinson says if the Liberals form government after the May 9 election, they’ll change the Vancouver Charter that allows the city to dictate its own building codes in order to repeal the ban.
The City of Vancouver responded to the party’s announcement on Saturday, again stating their plan does not constitute a ban.
“The City’s new rezoning policy (the Green Building Rezoning Policy which comes into effect May 1, 2017), sets energy efficiency and emissions targets for new buildings only, and only if a developer seeks a rezoning,” the City said in a news release.
“How a developer meets those targets is up to them; it can involve a mix of better insulation, thicker windows, and better design, as well as opting for renewable energy. Developers can choose to build new buildings with natural gas, provided they can meet the energy efficiency and emissions targets (50 per cent decrease in GHGs).”
Documents from a city presentation on Friday explain that the regulation will typically apply to taller residential or commercial buildings, which account for about 55 per cent of new development.
—With files from the Canadian Press