Op-ed: 100% renewable is 100% possible

Oct 3 2016, 11:26 pm

Dear Vancouver,

The City is not banning natural gas. Let me be clear: we’re not forcing you to replace your gas fireplace, or gas stove. We’re not forcing restaurants to stop cooking with gas.

What Vancouver is doing is moving towards a sustainable future where we use natural gas from renewable sources. Our goal is to use 100% renewable energy by 2050 or sooner by increasing the amount of clean, renewable energy available in the city, and building smarter. We’re proud of the work we’re doing to aggressively reduce our climate pollution by phasing out fossil fuels. Here’s why it matters:

Climate change is a real and present danger

2015 was the hottest year on record is another foreboding reminder that climate change cannot be ignored. Cities and countries around the world are rallying to respond to climate change and, as cities account for about 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions, we are in the best position to lead meaningful change. City Hall has made reducing climate pollution a major priority – and we’ve cut our emissions to the lowest per person in North America, while leading Canada’s cities in economic growth. Vancouver is the first city in North America to adopt a 100% renewable policy strategy to combat climate change and joins a growing movement around the world stepping up to take bold action to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Buildings account for over half of all greenhouse gases

Our goal to use 100% renewable energy by 2050 or sooner is also about building smarter. We’re tackling building energy efficiency where it will have the most impactful carbon reductions —primarily in space heating and hot water. We’ve already reduced building emissions by 20% from 2007 levels, and we’re ready to do more. If we build better new buildings now, we will use less energy in the future and that saves money. Already Vancouver residents and business save $44 million a year in avoided energy costs in new buildings built since stronger energy efficiency requirements in 2008, and those savings will continue to increase.

The buildings of today and tomorrow will use the same kinds of gas stoves and other gas appliances: the difference will be the kinds of gas going in and the energy efficiency of the buildings. In Vancouver, we produce renewable natural gas by capturing it from organics waste, dairy farms, and landfill gas. And we walk the walk on living renewable: City Hall is heated with renewable natural gas, purchased from Fortis’ renewable natural gas program.

Going renewable is a huge opportunity

Vancouver is known throughout the world for being an innovative, sustainable and creative place to live and do business. The proof is in the numbers: we have the greenest, most resilient and fastest growing economy in Canada, rooted in innovation, technology and green jobs. We are living proof that growing the economy and protecting the planet not only go hand in hand  – they create opportunity.

Renewable energy now attracts more capital investment than fossil fuels – a profound economic transformation Vancouver is poised to capitalize on. Our economy is rooted in technology and innovation, and the business transformation of energy, with the new renewable energy generation will define our future. We’re ready for the challenge: we’ve got more clean technology companies in Vancouver than anywhere else in Canada ready to dive in and drive growth in renewables.

Vancouver’s 100% Renewable City strategy is a 35-year guide setting us up to make smart decisions for the future. Rather than making sudden moves, we can gradually increase the amount of renewable energy in Vancouver and make our buildings more energy efficient over time. The ignorant and irresponsible path is to continue polluting our planet, but sitting on the sidelines is not an option in fighting climate change.