Green initiative brings hefty bill and controversy
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
The City of Vancouver, known for its green initiatives such as green bins and bike lanes, announced its next goal—to eliminate the use of natural gas in the city by 2050.
The shift from natural gas is part of Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy, which aims for Vancouver to become the greenest city in the world. The first step will be to reduce the overall use of energy. From there, any remaining energy used will be created by renewable resources, and the city will work to increase the supply of clean energy.
According to the Renewable City Strategy, only 31 per cent of the city’s energy is renewable. As for the remainder, 45 per cent of the energy is provided by natural gas, and the rest comes from fossil fuels.
Sadhu Johnson, a city manager, told Global that there is no current plans to outright ban natural gas use. However, it will become less accessible as buildings replace their energy sources, and appliances are upgraded to operate on other sources of energy.
Vancouver’s plan is already under scrutiny, not just from economists, but from environmentalists as well.
Environmentalists applaud the idea, but claim the people will be reluctant to change energy sources. Renewable sources of energy cost more.
“It says this is how much you’ve consumed this year, therefore all of that consumption needs to be replaced with a ridiculously high price for electricity and biomethane,” analyzed Mark Jaccard, director of the Energy and Materials research group, for CBC.
Jaccard suggested that the most effective way to install the plan into the city would be to get residents to reduce their overall energy consumption.
In an editorial to the Province, the director of the BC branch of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation wrote: “This will cost individual residents thousands of dollars—and was approved by Robertson and his council without any thought to the affordability crisis in Vancouver. This plan will make it more expensive for people to heat their homes and to buy things from businesses in Vancouver, and it means higher taxes to cover rising costs for hospitals, schools and buses.”
While costly, Jaccard defended the initiative, and said that it was still a better option than the alternative of continuing to burn through natural gas.
Yet many are still arguing that natural gas is very much needed by the city. FortisBC—who provides natural gas to 108,000 customers in BC—said in a letter to the city that it’s important to give customers a choice, and that natural gas can still be offered in a 100 per cent renewable form while still costing 14–42 per cent less than energy from BC Hydro.