How Vancouver Will Adopt 100% Renewable Energy

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PMVancouver’s Renewable City Strategy has been released. The city currently obtains 31% of its’ from clean energy sources. Though the Acting City Manager says he finds it “hard to imagine a city without fossil fuels,” he “enthusiastically supports” this plan.  How Vancouver will adopt 100% renewable energy by 2050 .

How Vancouver Will Adopt 100% Renewable Energy

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How Vancouver will meet its target for 2050 (Click on Image to expand)

The target is “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2007 levels.”

As “Vancouver’s 2007 emissions “were equivalent to 1990 levels,” this means 80% below the benchmark set by the Kyoto Accord. The city is already 7% below this benchmark.

(As a nation, Canada is currently 19%-20% above.)

Vancouver’s  biggest obstacle, in terms of 2014 energy usage, is that “45% of the city’s energy came from natural gas, mostly for space heating and hot water, and 24% from gasoline for personal vehicle use.”

Consequently, the city proposes to attack those sectors with a two prong strategy:

  • “reduce energy demand through efficiency and conservation measures”
  • Utilizing  “more of our existing renewable energy sources before increasing supply.”


Close to 40% of the buildings existing today will most likely be replaced new structures that built to carbon neutral standards.  The vast majority of those that remain will have undergone deep retrofits “to bring their energy performance up to the standards expected of new construction”.

Image Courtesy City of Vancouver

The initial focus is on the building envelope, which is not replaced every ten years or so (like lighting and appliances). The city will adopt “Passive House or ultra‐low thermal demand design philosophies.”

Building emissions will be further reduced through the adoption of “on‐site power generation from solar,” “air‐source heat pumps or geoexchange systems” and  “biomethane.”

Renewable Energy

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Image Courtesy City of Vancouver

While the cost of fossil fuels has kept increasing since the 1970’s, the cost of solar photovoltaic panels dropped approximately hundred‐fold, the cost of wind approximately thirty‐fold; and the cost of geothermal and biomass by about 50%.” This trend is expected to continue.

There will be greater adoption “of wind and solar power generation at both the utility and community scales. There are also emergent financing mechanisms such as green bonds that support green infrastructure projects. Carbon tax revenues and other environmental levies can raise revenues for green funds that can be used for climate action as direct investment, tax relief, low‐interest loans, and other supporting mechanisms.”

“New smart‐grid technologies will manage electrical distribution, on‐site generation, and electric vehicle charging.”


Photo Courtesy Vancouver’s Hub Cycling

The transportation network described in the Renewable City Strategy is a natural development of what is already taking place. In many European cities, the “Automobile Age” is coming to an end. People are walking, cycling, and making use of public transit. Many young Germans, for example, rent a car when they need one. This process has already begun in Vancouver, where the fastest growing transportation sector is bicycling.

This process is will undoubtedly continue and the authors predict “the number of private vehicles per person could decline by as much as 15%.”

As regards those who will still use automobiles as their primary means of transportation, “By 2050 about 25% of Vancouver’s personal vehicles would be electric using renewably generated electricity, 45% plug‐in hybrids using renewable electricity and sustainable biofuels, and the remainder conventional hybrid vehicles running on sustainable biofuels.”

Top Photo Credit: Vancouver in 2013 by Kyla Duhamel via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)