FortisBC vice-president Doug Slater advised Metro Vancouver to refrain from bowing to climate activists. He said that banning natural gas for new residential buildings would inhibit consumer choice.
"Affordability can be a drag on climate objectives," penned Slater in a letter to Metro chairman George Harvie.
He urged the province to pursue "a diversified approach to our energy systems" to prioritize energy affordability and not overload its electrical grid.
On May 30, the Vancouver city council discarded a proposal to ban natural gas in new residential builds. Last year, Councillor Adriane Carr tabled the ban on natural gas stoves and fireplaces for new homes and condos to reach 'net-zero' by 2050.
She claimed natural gas is a "threat to health, especially children and our planet."
Instead, councillors reconfigured the motion's language to align with the new provincial government Zero Carbon Step Code.
Effective May 1, the B.C. Building Code required 20% better energy efficiency for m new buildings throughout the province.
"The Zero Carbon Step Code provides tools for local governments to encourage or require lower emissions in new buildings. Together, the changes meet commitments in the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 to gradually lower emissions from buildings until all new buildings are zero carbon by 2030 and are net-zero energy ready by 2032," reads a government release.
While Carr said "it's [still] an improvement," she adds: "It's going to be a work in progress as builders look at the choices they have."
At the time, FortisBC rejoiced on the ruling, lauding the importance of Vancouverites' access to electric and natural gas alternatives.
"We believe that the consumer, the residents, the constituents of Vancouver should be able to choose what makes the most sense for them, whether that be using the natural gas or electric systems. Both systems have a way to help reduce emissions," explained Jason Wolfe, director of energy solutions for the Crown corporation.
Slater said importing natural gas from outside the province could further reduce emissions, referencing a B.C. Utilities Commission report. It wrote this route would lead to "significant emissions reductions and help support a more affordable transition to renewable and low-carbon fuels."
The FortisBC executive called on Vancouver to also study the impact accelerated 'climate transitions' would have on consumers, noting that Victoria, last year, banned natural gas from heating new housing developments.
In March, the Victoria city council also debated banning gas ovens and heating for rezoned developments after several city councillors proposed removing natural gas alternatives.
"We are in a climate emergency," reads the motion. "Victoria has targets for reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, and it will be difficult to hit those targets."
"About 40% of GHG emissions in Victoria are from buildings," it reads. "Installing GHG-producing systems in new buildings will lock in decades of GHG emissions or require far-more-expensive retrofits later."
During consultations, developers and builders argued they could not readily access the technology required to fully transition from gas heating to electricity.
The province said about 87% of its electricity comes from hydroelectric sources. As of 2019, natural gas provided about 4% of its total energy.
Victoria currently has 93 rezoning applications for new residential builds near its harbour, independent senior rental apartments in the downtown core and other developments.
Though electric and gas typically deliver the same amount of energy to residents, Wolfe added that natural gas is the superior alternative for the winter months.
"In the winter, the gas system delivers twice the amount of energy that the electric system does, so there certainly is a concern about providing all the energy that Vancouverites need for heating and cooking during these cold months. You need both the gas and the electric system to work in tandem," he said.
FortisBC is optimistic that the province can transition to a gas system that is 'net-zero' by 2050, using renewable gas and hydrogen. "We believe we can hit the 2030 targets by the province as well," continued Wolfe.
"In the case of the gas system, we have renewable gas coming on, we're looking at hydrogen, but we do believe that customers should have a choice. That will keep costs down."
As of 2025, Victoria will no longer permit the construction of housing heated by natural gas after implementing a gas prohibition for new homes last August.