Fortis BC VS. City of Vancouver

July 16, 2016 kelownapassivehouse

Via Castanet July 15,2016

Vancouver’s city council voted this week in favour of a plan to eliminate new building emissions by 2030 – a move FortisBC appears to have taken umbrage with.

The Zero Emissions Building Plan sets a direction for future policies from the city, with the aim to eliminate all emissions from new buildings by 2030. This would be largely achieved by increasing building efficiency and switching from fossil fuels for heat to electricity and biofuels.  

In response to the report, FortisBC sent a letter to Vancouver council from the utility’s president and CEO Michael Mulcahy.

“This policy is impractical and has the potential to increase costs for energy users in the city, and stifle innovation over the long term,” Mulcahy wrote.

Mulcahy contends that Vancouver residents’ energy bills will increase as a result of the new plan.

“Consumers would likely pay a premium if limited to other energy options as a result of being confined to the city’s predetermined set of offerings,” Mulcahy said in the letter. “FortisBC advocates that the current plan should not be adopted.”

City of Vancouver staff have taken issue with some of FortisBC’s math.

“Fortis has put forward information that if you switched all the heating, space heating and domestic hot water heating, in a home from gas to electric, it would increase your cost by $1,500 per month,” said Sean Pander, green buildings program manager with City of Vancouver. “That’s just, in my mind, misinformation, because the plan doesn’t say let’s leave use numbers as they are today; the whole plan says let’s radically reduce the use of energy.

Erika Schade, FortisBC communications advisor, says the utility company actually claimed the switch would increase users costs by $1,500 per year, not month.

Pander contends the City’s plan would actually reduce energy costs.

“If you move to a zero emissions home in this plan and got energy use down to where we think it needs to be by 2025, you would actually be saving several hundred dollars a month on your energy utilities.”

In the report to council, FortisBC is listed as an organization “involved in the development” of the plan. However, Mulcahy contends there wasn’t enough consultation done.

“There has also been insufficient consultation on the plan with key stakeholders, including FortisBC’s customers, who would be most impacted by the steps outlined in the policy report,” wrote Mulcahy in his letter.

BC Hydro, the other major utility company in B.C., is listed in the report as having co-funded research and consultation for the plan.

The Pembina Institute, a think-tank focused on environmental issues, was also involved in the development of the report.

“The plan puts Vancouver solidly on the path to an ultra energy-efficient, low-carbon economy, and provides a model for jurisdictions across Canada and North America,” said Karen Tam Wu, of the Pembina Institute, in a press release.

“With the adoption of the Zero Emissions Building Plan, Vancouver is now the first city in North America with a roadmap that defines the specific goals, timelines and initiatives needed to eliminate emissions from most new homes and buildings within a decade. This plan is ambitious and achievable.”

Vancouver city council passed the new building plan unanimously, save for one amendment that one councillor opposed.

“It’s pretty close to unanimous approval on the plan,” City of Vancouver’s Pander said.

FortisBC’s letter to Vancouver mayor and council, dated July 12, was originally posted to the Media Centre on its website, but was removed two days later. On FortisBC’s Twitter page, a tweet linking to the letter, was also deleted.

After Castanet asked about the letter’s removal, it was reposted on FortisBC’s site.

“It was taken down in error,” said Erika Schade, FortisBC communications advisor. “I think it was just a mistake.”