VANCOUVER –The B.C. Liberals say they will repeal the City of Vancouver’s plans to ban natural gas in some new buildings days ahead of the policy taking effect, but the city says no such ban exists.
Andrew Wilkinson, candidate for Vancouver-Quilchena, said on Saturday the city’s ban would increase costs to consumers, businesses and residents because it would increase building costs and create a reliance on electricity, which is more expensive.
In a statement responding to the announcement, the city said it has no plans for an outright ban on the use of natural gas.
The city does have a new building policy, which goes into effect Monday, that sets energy efficiency and emissions targets for new construction on rezoned lots.
“Developers can choose to build new buildings with natural gas, provided they can meet the energy efficiency and emissions targets,” the statement said, adding the targets require a 50 per cent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.
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.
Wilkinson said if the Liberals form the 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 restrictions on natural gas.
“It’s essential that Vancouverites be able to keep their costs down. We do not support processes and programs that drive up costs,” he said.
The Liberals claim that FortisBC, the province’s natural gas provider, calculated that a family of four would spend an additional $1,500 per year if they had to use electricity instead of natural gas for home and water heating.
But city documents said the move would not increase costs for the construction or operation of a building, and should not create additional costs to the occupants.
A statement the city issued in February of this year said natural gas would still be allowed in new buildings under six storeys for use in fireplaces, cooking ranges, furnaces, domestic hot water and laundry dryers.
These changes have been in the works since November 2015 when the city approved its strategy to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy use by 2050.
In a statement Saturday, the city said the new building regulation was approved by council in November 2016 and it aligns with the province’s recent B.C. Energy Step Code that requires improved energy efficiency for buildings.
Wilkinson said the Liberals waited until now to take a stance on the issue because changes to the city’s building code go into effect Monday.
“It’s timely to get out the word now so people don’t make decisions and face a flip-flop in the city of Vancouver. We want the status quo to continue,” he said.
The city’s renewable energy strategy does require a reduction on natural gas usage.
Wilkinson said this would negatively impact restaurant owners who rely on the resource for cooking because natural gas is the more effective and affordable option.
He claimed the city only created a caveat that allows for renewable natural gas, and not regular natural gas, and there simply isn’t enough of the resource to support the restaurant sector.
But a statement issued by the city in September 2016 on its natural gas restrictions said restaurants could continue cooking with natural gas and no one would be required to replace gas appliances.
On Saturday, the city said its move to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is necessary in order to combat climate change, while supporting the “green building sector” and making energy costs more affordable.
“The province states that the Vancouver region will need to invest over $10 billion in preparing and adapting to climate change due to sea level rise and increased storms and droughts. Only by reducing greenhouse gases today can we ensure this number does not increase,” said a statement from the city.