Vancouver's plan to eliminate natural gas goes too far, critics say
A plan to eliminate natural gas within Vancouver's city limits by the year 2050 will put too much of a burden on residents, according to critics.
The measure is part of Vancouver's "Renewable City Strategy," an ambitious plan to combat climate change that, among other things, calls for a 70 per cent reduction in reliance on fossil fuels by 2020.
Within 30 years of that target, officials want all of the energy in the entire city to come from renewable sources.
That's a substantial shift, given that more than half of all the energy used in Vancouver homes currently comes from natural gas.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said switching to electricity would mean much higher utility bills for Vancouverites, and that the impacts would be felt far beyond residents' homes.
"The average midsize hospital will end up spending up to $600,000 more in energy costs if they move from natural gas to electricity," said Jordan Bateman, the CTF's B.C. director. "For schools, you are talking about more than 100 schools in Vancouver that use natural gas today."
FortisBC said the average residential customer would pay three times as much switching to electricity, which would amount to an additional $1,400 a year.
Restauranteurs have also expressed concerns that cooking wouldn't be the same without gas stoves.
"A lot of restaurants in Vancouver use high temperature cooking for flavor, convenience and quality. There's nothing that replaces natural gas right now," said Ian Tostenson of the B.C. Restaurant & Foodservice Association.
But while Bateman and others have described the city's plan as a ban on natural gas, municipal staff said that's simply not the case.
City manager Sadhu Johnston told CTV News that Vancouver simply wants to move to what's called renewable natural gas, or biogas, which comes from landfills and other sources. The energy is already offered by FortisBC, and is currently powering City Hall.
"Any restaurant, any homeowner can buy renewable natural gas and we envision that will continue to be a part of the plan for powering Vancouver for decades to come," Johnston said.
The city's strategy also involves reducing energy use through conservation-focused changes to building codes and other measures, which have saved Vancouverites $400 million since 2007, Johnston added.
And while pushing away from fossil fuels might cost money, there are colossal costs associated with failing to address climate change in the long term.
Johnston pointed to a provincial study that found it will take $9 billion to build dikes to deal with rising sea levels in the region.
"Will taxpayers be on the hook for climate change? It's going to cost us a lot of money, so every little cent that we can put into reducing the impact of that will save us a lot in the long term," he said.
"And this is a long term game."
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Jonathan Glasgow