Vancouver 'backtracks' on natural gas ban in new residential builds

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.

Vancouver 'backtracks' on natural gas ban in new residential builds
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A proposal for Vancouver to ban natural gas in new residential builds will not go ahead as planned — to the dismay of Councillor Adriane Carr.

On May 30, Carr tabled a motion to ban natural gas stoves and fireplaces in new homes and condos, as part of the city’s aim to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050. She claimed natural gas is a “threat for health, especially children and our planet.”

Instead, councillors aligned the motion’s language “to Vancouver’s building bylaw with the new provincial government Zero Carbon Step Code.”

Effective May 1, 2023, the B.C. Building Code will require 20% better energy efficiency for most 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.

Vancouver city council debated Carr’s motion, “Ensuring Healthier Climate-Smart Homes,” which contends at least 25% of “today’s global warming is driven by methane from human actions.”

“I checked with [my] staff and that step code does give builders a chance to put in stoves that are natural gas into a new build home,” Carr told CityNews Thursday. However, she said “It doesn’t get to where my motion would have taken council.”

While the councillor 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.”

Meanwhile, the energy crown corporation, FortisBC, rejoiced after learning Vancouver residents would still have 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 system or using the electric system. Both systems have a way to help reduce emissions,” explained Jason Wolfe, director of energy solutions, FortisBC.

“In the case of the gas system, we have renewable gas coming on, we’re looking at hydrogen, but we really do believe that customers should have a choice. That will keep costs down.”

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 of being able to provide all the energy that Vancouverites need for heating and cooking during these cold months. You really do need both the gas and the electric system to work in tandem,” he said.

FortisBC is hopeful 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,” added Wolfe.

The province said about 87% of its electricity comes from hydroelectric sources. As of 2019, natural gas provided about 4% of its total energy.

In March, Victoria city council also debated a ban on gas ovens and heating for rezoned developments after several city councillors proposed a motion to remove natural gas alternatives.

Councillors Dave Thompson, Susan Kim, Krista Loughton and Jeremy Caradonna proposed rezoned developments only have electric energy systems, and the city produces reports which "prioritize" electric energy over alternatives. 

"We are in a climate emergency,” reads the motion. “Victoria has targets for the reduction of 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."

Victoria bylaws articulated rezoning is required when a new development proposal fails to meet the area's existing use and density requirements. The city has 93 rezoning applications for constructing residential buildings near its harbour, independent senior rental apartments in the downtown core and other developments. 

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.

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