Photo courtesy City of Richmond
Richmond is a world leader in geothermal district energy, energy management and conservation at the local level. The City is committed to reducing community Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from 2007 levels by 33% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The City has reduced its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 12% between 2007 and 2015, despite a similar percentage of growth in population during the same period.
Community centres at South Arm, West Richmond, Thompson and City Centre, Steveston Tram, Fire Halls No. 1 through No. 6 and the RCMP Community Safety Building use very little natural gas for space heating or none at all. The City has already reduced natural gas use by 25% since 2007 and expects to reduce consumption even further as the new Minoru Centre and other projects are completed, with a target to reduce GHG emissions by 65% (below 2007 levels) from civic buildings by 2020.
Richmond estimates that by 2025 all new buildings will be “near Net Zero” carbon. Most existing buildings will have had major renovations by 2050. With increased densification that will result in reduced energy needs and reduced carbon emissions.
The City’s Alexandra District Energy Utility has been using 100% renewable, totally clean, geothermal heat energy for 3,100 residences in the Odlin Road area since 2012. The Alexandra District Energy Utility won the International District Energy Association’s “System of the Year Award” in 2016.
Richmond received further awards in 2018 when it was first in North America to add an air source heat pump to a large retail development.
As the area around the Olympic Oval and recently approved City Centre developments are completed, district energy will replace electric baseboard heaters and natural gas in 16,000 residences already approved. As Richmond densifies, and even more new residences are built, much of Richmond’s City Centre will be heated and/or cooled using a range of renewable energy sources. The rates charged are slightly below BC Hydro rates, and each project will be paid for in 17 years.
For years, many of us have been questioning the advisability of spending $12 billion building the Site C Dam for hydroelectricity rather than keeping the valley for food production. The Site C Dam will take 80 years to pay off, and hydro rates will increase.
The cost of solar is decreasing, and Richmond will be installing solar on the rooftop of Brighouse Fire Hall No. 1 and potentially the new Minoru Centre for Active Living. The first solar roof single family subdivision in BC has been built in Steveston. City staff estimate that solar costs and hydro costs will soon be equal. Richmond is monitoring these projects to determine when it will be feasible to start developing solar district energy. A group of UBC scientists headed by
Dr. Stephen Sheppard estimates that roof-top solar can generate enough power for 900,000 homes, twice the output of the Site C Dam.
When will we admit we have a world wide climate crisis?
Our senior governments are quick to subsidize hydro, pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) with billions of dollars, but there are no subsidies for clean, renewable, energy alternatives like geothermal, solar and wind. LNG produces the same greenhouse gases as coal and oil. Richmond’s reduced need for natural gas for heating in the West Cambie area has already taken the equivalent of 710 cars off the road. Yet our provincial and federal governments are hell bent on taking the natural gas we have worked hard to conserve and converting it to LNG. They will use hydro energy at the Site C Dam to produce and export the LNG overseas. Does anyone else care?