Can Vancouver Go Fossil Fuel Free?
All of the direct combustion of fossil fuels in the City of Vancouver is in one of these four categories:
- Natural Gas in Buildings = 52%
- Light Duty Vehicles = 36%
- Electrical in Buildings = 6%
- Heavy Duty Vehicles = 5%
Natural Gas in Buildings: 52% (25,305,000 GJ)
Natural Gas has three uses which need to be addressed in both residential and commercial buildings:
- Space Heating
- Domestic Hot Water
Natural Gas use can be eliminated by employing a combination of the following strategies
For Space Heating (19,321,000 GJ):
- PassivHaus standards for new construction and major renovations. This standard employs a several building techniques that reduce energy use by up to 90%. It is gaining widespread use in Europe where it has been used to construct single family homes, multifamily high rises and commercial buildings. If homes where built to this standard in Vancouver most space heating could be supplied by a Heat Recovery Ventilation unit.For our modelling we assumed only 10% of new or existing homes would be built or retrofitted to this standard. That would cover 1,932,000 GJ.
- Conservation / Efficiency. Building envelope upgrades and heating system controls can offer significant savings on those buildings not built to PasivHaus standards. NR Canada has estimated that most homes could achieve 40% savings from basic efficiency upgrades. Some commercial buildings in Vancouver have achieved a reduction in natural gas use of 90%.For our purposes we used a more conservative number of a 30% reduction which would result in a reduction of 5,770,000 GJ.
- Heat Pumps. These use electricity instead of gas for heating and reduce energy use by around 60% compared to conventional electric heating.If all the remaining natural gas used for heating was replaced with heat pump use it would eliminate another 11,539,000 GJ. This would increase the demand for electricity.
For Domestic Hot Water:
- Solar Hot Water.- these systems have been around for over 30 years and help reduce energy consumption by 50% on average. If all home adopted this option it would eliminate another 2,404,000 GJ.
- On-demand / heat pumps – on-demand or heat pump water heaters further reduce the energy needed and can run off electricity rather than natural gas. These solutions could be used to eliminate all the remaining gas associated with hot water heating – another 2,404,000 GJ.
- Induction cooking – induction cooking elements are more common in Japan and Europe and just starting to gain acceptance in North America. They offer all the advantages of natural gas cooking (finer control and instantaneous heating changes) without the GHG emissions and use less electricity than conventional electrical elements.We estimate this would offset 1,265,000 GJ of natural gas usage.
Are these solutions realistic?
- A new PassivHaus in Surrey has no central heating. A few small baseboard heaters are available for back-up but it is not expected that they will be needed.
- On Gabriola Island a community group has installed heat-pumps in over 100 homes resulting in zero fossil fuel heating and a significant savings in electricity.
- SPEC had a solar hot water heating on its Energy Demonstration Centre in Vancouver which supplied hot water for over 20 years.
Light Duty Vehicles: 36%
Light Duty Vehicles include passenger cars, vans, minivans, sport utility vehicles, and pickup trucks. To understand how we can reduce fossil fuel for this category we need to understand how often these vehicles are used compared to other mobility options.
The current modal share for commuting in Vancouver is:
This modal share could be changed to:
Electric Vehicles 5%
Is this realistic?
- Amsterdam has a cycling modal share of 38% (13% more than what we are proposing).
- Gronningen, Netherlands; Greifswald, Germany; Lund, Sweden; Assen, Netherlands; Copenhagen, Denmark; Münster, Germany; Utrecht, Netherlands; Västerås, Sweden; Ferrara, Italy; Malmö, Sweden; London, England; and Linköping, Sweden all have cycling modal shares higher than what we are proposing.
- Zurich, Switzerland has a transit modal share of 65% – more than what we are proposing for Vancouver.
- Touoouse, France increased transit ridership by 80% in 7 years.
- Two car sharing companies in Vancouver already have 100% electric vehicles available for use.
Electricity in Buildings = 6%
Although the majority of electricity in BC comes from hydro projects some of it does come from fossil fuel generation. We are proposing that we address this portion of our electrical consumption through the following measures:
- Energy Efficiency and Conservation
- Local renewable energy generation – primarily solar photovoltaic
Is this realistic?
- A local consulting company regularly helps commercial buildings identify projects that will reduce energy use by 30-40%
- A North Vancouver home owner has a small photovoltaic system that on average delivers 100% of his electrical consumption.
Heavy Duty Vehicles = 5%
Large trucks are smallest of the four areas that needs to be addressed. We propose the following solutions to address this issue:
- 100% Electric Vehicles for short haul deliveries
- Hybrid Electric / Biodiesel vehicles for long haul delivers and construction equipment
Are these solutions realistic?
- Canada Post and Novex Couriers already use 100% electric vehicles for local deliveries in Vancouver
- Chicago has 100% electric garbage trucks.
- A Portland Oregon company is using Hybrid Electric / Biodiesel trucks for deliveries
- Florida Light and Power uses Hybrid Plug-In Electric / Diesel trucks