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MONTREAL

This month Montreal’s Mayor Valérie Plante announced that the city intends to go carbon-neutral, including eliminating oil and gas heating. Prohibitions will hit oil heating first with no oil allowed in municipal buildings by 2021, industrial, institutional and commercial buildings by 2025, and residential buildings by 2030.

 

Source: Edmonton’s “Greenhouse Gas Management Plan.”

Unlike other cities, in which such announcements apply first to new construction, and then later to existing buildings, Montreal tends to simply announce an end date for all buildings. For gas, the end date is 2050 at the moment, although Montreal and other municipalities in Quebec have been known to accelerate timelines on clean energy. In Quebec these announcements are somewhat less dramatic than elsewhere, insofar as the province produces an abundance of inexpensive hydropower. More buildings use electricity than gas for heating.

TORONTO

Toronto has also established an ambition to reach carbon neutrality, and although it is not banning gas specifically, the Toronto Green Standard becomes tougher in phases in 2022, 2026, and 2030. By the latter year it is unlikely that a design will be approved by the planning department, for a newly constructed building that uses fossil fuel appliances of any kind.

Existing buildings may enjoy a sunset until 2050, but they also might not; or other initiatives such as significant retrofit programs might make the exact year moot. There are already some energy upgrade incentives available from the city, the utilities and the federal government, but it’s possible these will be beefed up and perhaps be accompanied by stronger regulation in the future.

If growth projections are accurate, the city’s population will expand by about 30% over the next 20 years with the GTA reaching 9.4 million people. This will mean great transformation of not just buildings, but also associated infrastructure, both of which may present opportunities for HRAI members in the area.

VANCOUVER

In 2015 Vancouver created a new policy targeting 100% renewable energy, then in 2016 added rules requiring new builds to be zero-emissions by 2030, and all buildings to do the same by 2050. In 2017 it began phasing in rules for rezoned buildings and other new construction that, while not specifically banning gas, effectively eliminate it as an economically viable option. 

This year Vancouver created a net-zero energy program that provided design and construction incentive money to help developers get cleaner, and also a new industry training program on the passive house standard. Similar to Toronto and Montreal, Vancouver offers homeowner rebate incentives, including up to $5,500 for insulation (attic, basement crawlspace, exterior wall cavity/sheathing), $3000 for ENERGY STAR® windows and doors, $5000 for air source heat pumps, $1000 for heat pump water heaters, and a $300 bonus for any two of these completed around the same time.

HALIFAX

In January the Halifax Regional Municipality declared a climate change emergency and a carbon neutral target of 2050. Council unanimously adopted a motion giving city staff a year to come back with specifics on an action plan. If it sounds like they are late to the energy upgrades party, it should be considered that Halifax has for several years administered a highly successful PACE solar program. PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy, under which homeowners receive loans, not grants. They must be repaid plus interest.

This means non-participating taxpayers are not burdened, and in fact, the city makes money on the program. The merits of the measure are that it eliminates two key obstacles to adoption of major upgrades: up front cost and property sale uncertainty. The latter is relieved because the loan is attached to the property rather than the individual. The Halifax program started small and kept expanding. It now covers three kinds of solar: PV, solar thermal and solar air. After several program extensions it became a permanent city program in 2019.

EDMONTON

Like the other cities mentioned here, Edmonton is targeting carbon neutrality by 2050 and it has published an elabourate “Greenhouse Gas Management Plan” containing dozens of initiatives, on buildings, vehicles, and more. Most of these seem to be incentive-based voluntary measures for private sector entities, or requirements that apply to their own government operations. They too have tasked staff to further develop plan details, so it’s possible the Edmonton building sector will be more significantly affected in the future.