City Of Vancouver “Not A Gas Ban” Interview.


Interviewer: Samantha McLeod (SM),
Interviewee 1: Doug Smith (DS), City Of Vancouver, Acting Director, Sustainability Group Planning, Urban Design & Sustainability.
Interviewee 2: Matt Horne (MH), City Of Vancouver, Climate policy manager.
Setting: Conducted in a boardroom at Vancouver City Hall on February 21st, 2017.

Image courtesy of Ribbon AJ Photography.

DS: See, Vancouver isn’t banning natural gas, and we support a lot of the things that you have on your website. Like we are working really hard with small businesses and local businesses, to try and support them, we are working really hard with local restaurants to try and make them viable. And we are ensuring that any time we write a new policy and putting them in place that we consult with all those groups to make sure that they are not impacted and they have input and they understand what’s going on. So when I saw your website and it just got people all riled up and excited and I’m thinking, well this seems all counter to what the purpose of your website is. Or what your purpose is, which is to kind of help small businesses.

SM: First, we can’t be black and white anymore. There has to be a balance, a medium, we need to be pragmatic to get to the places we need to be. So big concern is, it’s already so expensive. How much do we have to change and do to get there? As we all know Vancouver is quite expensive to live in, so everybody’s thinking, where’s this money coming from for us to get to this ideal green-city? We want to know what’s it going to cost us at the end of the day, how are we going to afford to live in this city?

DS: So, very good questions, I can see why people are concerned and there’s a lot of lobbying by oil and gas companies to try and kinda stop the work we are doing because they’re going to lose money. But the reality is of all work we’ve done so far we’re actually saving people money. And the simplest way to look at it from a building point of view, which is where the gas and natural gas is going to come in, is we’re making buildings more energy efficient. And by making them more energy efficient, you don’t need to use as much natural gas and you don’t need to use as much electricity and therefore people will save money. The cost of buying new building is not based on how much it cost to build it. So if you make a building more energy efficient and you have to make the walls thicker and you put in better windows that’s going to add the cost of the construction of your building, it’s going to increase by two or three percent.

SM: Thank you for this meeting. The fundamental is the city is insisting that it’s not banning natural gas.

DS: Correct.

SM: The zero-emissions building plan commits Vancouver to derive 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources before 2050. Is that correct?

DS: Yes

SM: And for new buildings the plan wants to achieve zero emissions by 2030.

DS: Yes.

SM: Can this city commit to those opting to continue using natural gas in the phase-out program that they will not be subject to increase levies and fees to push them towards switching?

DS: Can you ask the second, that last question again?

SM: Can you commit to people having the option of saying, yes I will pay the additional fees to go green, or no I want to stay with gas?

DS: I can’t commit to anything because I’m not city council and in fact city council can’t commit to anything until they’ve actually voted and made a decision. But the way the program works is it’s not as black and white as using natural gas, or using renewable natural gas. We’ve been given a direction to go in by city council and that direction is zero, 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and that direction is zero-emissions new buildings, not on existing buildings, by 2030.
As we head towards that direction we’re going to be bringing policies from the council and when we did two weeks ago which improves the building code for four to six story buildings. Every time we bring one of those policies forward council will have a long debate and a long discussion about, is this the right thing to do? Is it going to cost money? Is it going to save money? Is it technically feasible? Does this make sense? So the question you asked about, can we commit? That has to be done on a kind of case by case basis depending on the policy you bring for it because there’s hundreds of different policies that we’re going to be bringing forward for these changes. So it’s not just one or the other.

SM: Why is the city removing natural gas as a choice for residents?

DS: So we’re not banning natural gas when…

SM: We know that.

DS: So your question is why are we removing your choice?

SM: No. Sure, yes.

DS: So we’re not removing choice. People can still opt to put natural gas in their buildings.

SM: So it would still be available for consumption?

DS: Right now it’s still available. So we haven’t made any changes that will make it not available.

SM: OK, so we go back to, you’re not banning natural gas but this is your plan to get there.

DS: Yes. But why are we reducing natural gas, we are dramatically reducing natural gas, not banning ok? And we’re doing that for the same reason the rest of the world doing it, to reduce natural gas by 2050. The province of British Columbia and the government of Canada are committed to reducing natural gas by 80 percent, or greenhouse gases by 80 percent before 2050. And the city of Vancouver is the same. So in order to do that we need to put policies in place to reduce that. So we look at that 80 percent that’s being reduced. The amount of natural gas that’s burned for fireplaces and barbeques and stoves is very small compared to the heating of buildings the heating of hot water in the buildings. So, I can’t commit to anything, like I said because I’m not city council. But it’s foreseeable that in the future that that small percentage of natural gas won’t be an issue because it’ll be within that 20 percent that we are targeting for 2050.

MH: We are looking at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in parks Canada that includes coal, and in Vancouver, natural oil. We have the building plan, we also have electric car strategy, which is trying to help Vancouverites and Vancouver businesses switch to electric and use less gas in the future, so we are looking all other sources it is not just a conversation around natural gas.

SM: Would we have to pay more for natural gas, in the future, if we decide we want to keep our space heaters?

DS: That’s going to up to the BC and the commodities market to decide what the value of natural gas is. Yeah, I have no idea what the future cost of natural gas is going.

MH: There’s also going to be a federal, and provincial policy around the carbon tax, as well.

SM: What about the big factories, or at the commissary kitchen where there’s so many small businesses using the kitchens and they’re using gas all day and night. What happens when they have to use renewable natural energy and that is even more expensive?

DS: Well again a commissary kitchen will be no different than a restaurant. Again that’s a small amount of energy relative to heating buildings. So I don’t see them as being impacted. You did mention industrial. You know that that is a bigger concern and we need to know right now we’re focusing on the low hanging fruit which is houses apartment buildings, commercial industrial buildings. Industrial buildings are really tricky because everyone is different and everyone has different needs. So you know the breweries like West Coast Reductions they use a huge amount of natural gas. We’re going to need to sit down and talk with them. How do we change this? We have been talking with West Coast reductions and they’re actually talking about using microwave technology instead of natural gas, they feel that can actually be more effective to keep them in what they have, but again, of course the implications of that something we have to work on.

MH: Well there’s definitely some green technologies that come with a premium cost but we have a pretty good track record for getting better. So those are seen as a good example for making Vancouver save money. So there may be some additional construction of some of those buildings but you’re going to use way less energy in heating and cooling those buildings. We have seen big drops in like the costs of solar and wind over the last five years but over the next five to eight years those costs come down as well. So the ability for those improvements are pretty profound so we have to keep pushing in that direction.

SM: So we’re here again your policy in fact bans non-renewable energy 100 percent by 2050, is this is correct?

DS: Yes. Well no! We are not banning non-renewable fuels, we’re ensuring that Vancouver runs on a hundred percent renewable energy. So it’s a slightly different take on the same thing.

SM: So there would be some small suppliers for those people who cannot afford to buy new cars or change their appliances?

DS: Well people would not have to necessarily change; there are two processes one is through the buildings and the other one is through incentive programs. But again when we’re talking appliances, we’re not talking stoves. I really doubt at any point we’re going to be going after people and saying we want you to replace your stove, at some point we will want you to replace your hot water tank and your furnace, but I don’t think stoves will be a target. Going back a few steps the reason we are doing all of this, I mean you’re talking about affordability, and we’re not doing this because it’s good for the environment we’re doing it for affordability reasons. So climate change is going to impact the city of Vancouver and British Columbia in massive massive ways and it’s going to impact the poorest countries in the world in huge ways. So the problem is just going to study and just sea level rise alone will cost the region thirty two billion dollars. So you’re worried about us you know raising the costs for restaurants and people to operate. Well if we have to find 32 billion dollars to deal with sea level rise. Who’s going to pay for that? That’s going to be us that’s going to be us, that’s going to be us the taxpayers paying for all that.

SM: That is what this is all about because every new decision made by the government, it is we, the taxpayers that pay for it.

DS: Absolutely.

SM: I am speaking about the guys on the street, running the little businesses all around. I mean I don’t know if you’ve ever owned a business in Vancouver. The regulations and the fines and the licenses it’s just overwhelming.

DS: I bet it is very difficult, yes. Yes. So. So it’s kind of like saying we don’t want to fix our roof because it’s too expensive. But once that roof starts leaking and falling out it going to cost you a lot more money. Sea level rise climate changes the exact same thing. If we don’t do anything about it it’s going to cost 32 billion dollars. Even just to fix the current risk right now is about 10 billion dollars just to adapt to it. So the fact we are spending money or trying to be aggressive with our green policies it’s not to save the environment it’s actually to provide economic benefit for the city of Vancouver and to ensure those taxes don’t have to go crazy to pay for those things. The trick is it’s short-term pain for long-term gain.

SM: Will you be producing renewable natural gas within city limits or any kind of renewable energy?

DS: Well we do produce renewable energy already. Solar power. We have a district energy facility called the Neighbourhood energy utility, which uses heat from sewers and takes energy and basically produces the heat and hot water for the Olympic Village, and the surrounding neighbourhoods as well. And so they see a reduction in greenhouse gases by 60 percent just by using renewable heat.

SM: That’s just the Olympic Village. Are you going to implement the same process in every little neighbourhood?

DS: Every neighbourhood is going to have its distinct approach. Some neighborhoods may be able to use district energy. Some neighbourhoods may just be efficient building designs. There are two approaches; one is to make buildings very thoroughly efficient so they don’t need a lot of energy. Another way is to reduce the hot water and heat they need onsite.

SM: What’s your suite of options to achieve this plan?

MH: So what are the options to get there? Overall we believe it’s going to be energy efficiency or wherever it is possibilities use less energy for the same outcome helping Vancouverites achieve that. So we’re going to build make sure they use as little energy as possible. Using electric vehicles so across the board we will take those opportunities. And the second part of our main strategy is where there is renewable energy. We will make sure we are increasingly using those bodies. So in some cases there’ll be a switch from gas to the electricity. So instead of burning natural gas furnace you can use a heat pump to actually move the heat from outside to inside the house. I refer to your earlier question, the third option is to actually grow the supplies so some of that can be locally and some of that could be outside the city.

SM: I do not believe we can depend much on solar because this is a rainy city.

MH: Actually it’s a bit of a misconception. Germany is one of the largest solar users in the world and they actually have like farms that do huge amounts of solar, they get about the same amount of sunlight as us. And the solar technology is really efficient now so solar is an option here. However, our electricity is pretty abundant, pretty green already. We will use a bunch of different sources, you’ve got you’ve got farms in the Fraser Valley, and there’s only two or three farms producing green energy right now. For right now for instance there’s hundreds and hundreds of farms out there. So the potential to use that waste material for biogas is huge. All of our sewage treatment plants, that treatment plant is due for a complete rebuild in 20 to 25 I believe. And they’re looking at doing capture of methane in those plants as well. And then of course use our landfill. But we only have one landfill, so.

SM: Fortis BC’s website said you will need 104 landfills.

DS: Yeah and that’s a lie. So what Fortis has been saying is that they are saying if you changed all of the existing buildings in the city today and said they need to stop use natural gas or they need to stop using natural gas and switch to electricity. We’re not proposing that. We’re proposing that over time as buildings are replaced or replace with more efficient buildings. So we’re not going to force people to switch to electricity.

SM: So effectively Fortis will be out of business, by 2050?

DS: The city of Vancouver is pretty small compared to North America.

SM: They will lose Vancouver?

MH: Depends on how they want to do this model at all but there’s no reason why they have to lose Vancouver, they’re not limited as a company to just selling gas, they do energy-efficiency, they do alternative energy. So some utilities have really grown that part of their business so that’s sort of an option for Fortis as well to provide, whether it’s energy efficiency, or agreed to it. I believe they’re doing bits and pieces already. It’s just a question of how much of they want to grow their business.

DS: That’s a good point. I mean when we developed the renewable city strategy Fortis was on our team giving us input on how to do it. We have a team called the Renewable Action Team and Sarah Smith from Fortis was on that team and when we went around the table and talked about our plans, you know we actually, I kind of apologize to her said sorry Sarah you know it sounds like we’re looking at reducing the amount of natural gas used and that has an impact, and she said no no we’re OK with that because we’re not a natural gas company we’re energy company and we’ll find a way to evolve into the future. So that’s what she said at the meeting.

SM: And, it has changed?

DS: I don’t know. I mean they seem to be saying different things live, but we’ll see.

SM: Biofuel from seaweed? That’s out of the picture?

DS: I can give you a great example though of a good biofuel is the city in Surrey is building a huge bio digester. And so what happens is they have their trucks that pick up the organic waste from restaurants and residents and then take them to bio digester, the organic material is turned into natural gas and then that natural gas is put into the trucks used to pick up the waste.

MH: Well I wouldn’t want to say, like we are looking at 30 years out whilst we are making that transition, we don’t want to say things are out of the picture right now. We don’t know really how technology will change over the next 30 years so. I just recently had a tour of this carbon engineering plant in Squamish, it’s an interesting one there. They’re essentially trying to pull carbon dioxide out of the air. It’s almost like they are planning on burning diesel to make a synthetic or recycled product that doesn’t have any emissions or something like that. They only get a tiny amount right now but you never know what they’ll get over the next 20 years. There’s all sorts of interesting entrepreneurs trying to create new sources of renewable energy.

SM: From my research it says everything is coming from Quebec. Right now we have that green energy for restaurants where they’re pumping a certain amount …

MH and DS: Yeah, you’re talking about Bullfrog.

SM: How much has it increased their bills, wherever they are? I know right now Bullfrog is charging additional for a small percentage of renewable energy to be pumped into the mass system? It’s a matter of a few percentages right? So here’s green guy getting all that business because he’s promoting himself as a green energy. And here’s little guy who cannot afford that few bucks more to claim he is green, is losing business. That’s a big problem right now because that’s false marketing. And we found out it was all being conducted in some far-off place like Quebec.

MH: So Bullfrog energy yeah, they do have a facility in Quebec but they are selling credits to all of Canada. Ah, Fortis also has a clean gas program, which comes from five facilities locally.

SM: We want to know where’s the money coming from for new facilities and infrastructure? How long is this going to take to build?
You look at Germany, they have had explosions, you look at England they’ve got issues with animal cruelty. Windmills aren’t working in most places. You go to in California windmills are just standing dead in the fields. So we’re looking at all the different attempts that have not worked anywhere. So how are we going to afford to build those, and get them working, and all the research it is going to take to get us there? And if that little bit cost that much, how much would the full 100 percent renewable energy cost them later? The question is are we going to buy garbage from other countries?

DS: No the, so but the incineration of garbage. I mean I really doubt that’s ever going to happen here. We’ve learned from other countries that have done that, like Norway where they started incinerating their garbage for energy now they’re importing garbage. And no we don’t want to do that in the region either. And our recycling is so good here. If we were to do that we wouldn’t have enough fuel because so much are being diverted. So I don’t think that’s ever going to be an issue here. But that’s not our decision. That will be a national and provincial decision about whether that’s going to happen.

SM: Wind energy is that going to be a plan for Vancouver too?

MH: I wouldn’t rule it out, I think the wind maps for Vancouver isn’t very good, we import wind for Vancouver. BC now have five very big wind farms, mostly in the northeast part of the country.


MH: That’s part of the grid and we recognize that all the electricity will come from outside Vancouver. I’d be surprised to see large, or even medium, wind developments inside Vancouver, it’s not that windy here consistently. And space, finding space for it you will have to find space where it is really open.

SM: Are we going to use methane, like from animal farms?

DS: Well if the methane is produced in the Fraser Valley. I mean the way, the way renewable natural gas works, just like the Fortis natural gas, is they take the natural gas and they clean it up so it can be burned properly and they just put in your pipeline. Then it gets burned like regular gas so you don’t have to burn waste, you don’t have to bring it in, you just put the natural gas in the pipe. For example the gas at the landfill gas is it varies day and it’s going to change depending on the weather with humidity and so. And so it has to be cleaned up and put in the pipe and burn properly. But at least it’s waste material instead of like the fracking for it or something else.

SM: Are we going to create farms dedicated just to grow renewable energy?

DS: I doubt it in Vancouver based on our footprint? I mean we do grow a lot of food for consumption. But as far as growing food in Vancouver to use as fuel I don’t envision that for the future as energy resources.

MH: We do want to look at sewer waste that is not being used so we can put it to use.

SM: When you restrict natural gas in Vancouver it stands to reason that other communities will have to pay more?

DS: I don’t think so. But, well let’s ask your first question first so because there seems to be some sort of rumours out there that if Vancouver uses less natural gas the rest of the province will have to pay more for it because there’s less out there but the cost of gas is a North American commodity. How much Vancouver uses is not going to have any impact on the world price for natural gas. That’s a kind of a silly comparison.

MH: If anything the price in oil would go down, if more and more people are using less gas, then more becomes available.

DS: I mean look the world oil price throughout the world the price has gone down because people are using less of it.

SM: That has nothing to do with wars and price cutting?

MH: Well Middle East is definitely holding prices low because they have such huge supply that they control. But the fact people are not, it is not in as much demand. People are finding other sources for their energy so it’s keeping the prices low. So if there’s more of it on the market it should be cheaper.

SM: It does take a lot of natural gas and money to actually produce green energy right now. The oil and gas industry gives back so much in royalties and taxes can we not use some of that funding for building a green city? Vancouverites are suffering,

DS: Affordability is absolutely an issue in Vancouver, that’s a high priority for us to try to work out. But it’s got little if nothing to do with sustainability. If anything making buildings more efficient means it’s less expensive to live in the building. So it’ll be cheaper for you. What’s raising the prices here is the global economy, the low interest rates around the world and people looking for a place to put their money. I mean the treatment for houses as investments for stocks and it’s terrible. A home should never be treated as an investment it should be a home. I mean and this is, when I first learned this it kind of really turned on a light for me. You can change the cost of a house, you can make the cost of building a house more expensive by three or four percent, you can reduce the cost of building a house by 10 to 15 percent. That will have no impact on what the house sells for. So you think your iPhone that’s $700. It costs $12 to make that but they sell it for seven hundred because they can. It’s that same situation, it’s a commodity, it’s a product, people are willing to pay 2 million dollars for a house even though you know it only cost 500,000 dollars to build it.

SM: There you go. Our government isn’t protecting us taxpayers because they know it cost 12 dollars to make and they’re allowing people to charge us $700. So here we have a whole different issue.

DS: Well, they’re not allowing it’s called free market and that’s one of the reasons that we’re doing some changes here in Vancouver on the affordability side. But I guess the point I’m trying to make is as we do changes to our building code to make buildings safer and healthier and more energy efficient. If the cost goes up or down a little bit it won’t impact the affordability of those houses but it will impact the affordability of people living in those houses because the utility bills will go down. That’s the point I am trying to make there.

SM: So covered so far. You answered we’re not getting landfills. We’re not buying garbage yet, and we’re not using fertile land to grow food to burn.

MH: No we want to go after waste.

SM: BC is promoting utilizing our natural resources to put money back into the economy. But Vancouver is completely different from the BC’s plan, I mean going in a different direction. Why is that, how are you not cohesive?

MH: So you are asking about Vancouver and BC?

SM: Yes. Are you anti non-taxpayers money or what?

DS: Well the majority of funding for the province comes from the Lower Mainland, it’s created by economic development in the lower mainland not just Vancouver but the whole lower mainland and everybody else. And we’ve been doing it by diversifying our economy. And ensure you have a diverse economy that includes natural resources, mining, lumber as well as IT and the movies, any type of businesses you can do to get that diversity is really important. If you put all your eggs in one basket you end up with Alberta has, which is if that one commodity drops your whole economy falls out. So we want to make sure we’re diverse. I wouldn’t say that we’re contrary to what the province is doing. The province is committed to reducing greenhouse gases by 80 percent. Exact same as Vancouver. So we have plans on how they plan to get to 80 percent, I’m not sure what the province’s plans are because it’s going to be difficult for them to get to 80 percent and develop a lot of natural gas in the province at the same time.

MH: So if you look at how energy is used in the province as opposed to how energy is used in Vancouver the objectives are quite similar. We’re sort of have the same target, the transition, the electric vehicles, for vehicles to get to zero emission vehicles or conditioned or more efficient buildings. If we both hit our targets they will be similar transitions. Where it’s around a different situation is around the push for resources development and those are all the LNG proposals, those will all be for export purposes, those aren’t to be used in BC. There’s a perfectly legitimate debate around those. They’re not a BC demand that the province is targeting they are all for export.

SM: Do you feel that there is enough public consultation and awareness on your zero emissions building plan?

DS: I agree with you I don’t think we’ve reached out enough to the public and shared our plans and communicated it clearly, which is obvious that there’s some confusion out there. It doesn’t help that there’s lots of misinformation going round but what we did is kind of followed our traditional path like we looked at the zero-emission building plan which really only affects new buildings, it doesn’t affect existing code and will really only affect heating and hot water in those buildings not the natural gas, not the stoves. And so we talked to those people we talked to the urban development institute, we talked to the builders, we’ve talked to the contractors and talk to the window suppliers, the insulation suppliers, we did dozens of open houses and talked to all of those people so there was significant, probably a year and a half of meetings leading up to the zero-emissions plan.

SM: You rent a place and you just go with the flow of whatever’s happening in there. We’re talking about people worrying about having to change their cars right now or in a few years. We are worried because the city makes decisions without consulting the public. So. What’s it going to cost us right now? We are consumed by cost of living in beautiful Vancouver and the biggest issue we live with every day is money. It’s cost, it’s money, and it’s the cost of living in Vancouver.

DS: I agree with you 100 percent. I think the small and medium businesses especially the small and medium restaurants need better access to the information and better support. I mean a really large company like the Keg or Molsons, they have sustainability people who work on your staff and they spend all their time time trying to make the operations as green as possible. But the smaller businesses are just trying to survive. And they don’t have time to do that. So we are trying to work with groups like Climate Smart and they work with small businesses to help them do energy-upgrades that will actually save them money. But most of those businesses don’t have the energy nor the expertise to go, is it worth it? But they can come in and ask, and Climate Smart can actually do an audit of your business, they can tell you how much money you’re going to save, they can even connect you with contractors that will work for you. And then the city provides a lot of free stuff. Last year we did a campaign where we provided free spray valves for small restaurants. And it was just basically you know this spray head they use to clean up the dishes. There’s a huge amount of water that used there and cost them a lot of money. So it’s a very efficient valve that still cleans the plates but actually uses quite a bit less water. And so we gave those valves for free.

SM: And how many did you give away?

DS: 100 percent took it.

SM: No, how many did you give away?

DS: I can get you the number but I am not sure if we gave away 300 or a thousand.

SM: Oh you didn’t supply to every restaurant, just a certain amount? OK.

DS: Yeah. I mean we’re hoping everything we do has a positive impact on the community. Not everything will go well, there’re always compromises and we have to make decisions one way or the other. But the intent is to make sure that these changes have a positive impact.

MH: So, not only for the small businesses, but we have installed 120 vehicle electric stations over the last few years and if you’re able to make that switch from a standard vehicle to an electric vehicle you’re going to save quite a bit of money over the long run because they are so much more efficient and because the operation cost and maintenance cost are so low so that’s a service we are now providing as a city that helps people make that switch and make it more viable for them. So that is something we are trying to continue building over time because if that choice wasn’t available when electric cars are an option you wouldn’t have access to the charging

SM: Ok the infrastructure is in place but I do see them empty out there, no one is fueling up at them.

DS: That’s actually a good thing, I know it is counterintuitive but that’s actually a good thing. If you go out and there’s no parking you are not going to go there, but if there are always a few empty then you will go, Oh I know where I can get parking and you’re actually going to want to go there. We have charging stations downtown where people line up four-deep and they are always complaining that they have to wait 3 to 4 hours to charge their car, we don’t have enough stations.

SM: So how are you making it affordable for people to want to change cars?

DS: Right now you can get $11,000 back from the province if you trade in your old car and buy a brand new electric car.

SM: I think you really have to look into finding a way to get information to the public in a more fun way.

DS: Yes I agree with you we’re struggling and hopefully you can help us. We are struggling with small businesses including small restaurants. It’s because they’re so diverse. There isn’t one organization like I can go to and have a conversation with two hundred small restaurants, I need to reach them all in one go but they don’t all go through the same channels.

SM: There was one other question though. Are you anti oil and gas industry?

DS: I am not anti oil and gas, I mean it is part of our society for 100 years and it’s, and I love cars, and it’s part of our society is not an issue but it’s a sunset industry as a planet and we need to move to more renewable sources of energy for everybody’s benefit. North America or Vancouver especially, in Canada we’re going to be fine. We’re a relatively rich part of the world, we are a very rich part of the world compared to others. But there’s so many other areas and other others are poor and are going to have huge huge negative impacts and are already seeing the negative impact in climate change. So we need to move away from fossil fuels to protect those areas way more than ourselves. I mean people often ask why are you bothering when it doesn’t make a difference and where it makes a difference by being leaders and setting an example of saying this is the right thing to do and learning from other cities and having other cities follow that example. So that’s really valuable for us. But we also feel that having a renewable city actually is a better city for residents. Less pollution quieter, cleaner, healthier, everything is better if you’re not polluting the atmosphere. I mean we used to spray DDT everywhere to grow crops.

SM: It’s still happening in South America.

DS: It is, but not in developed nations, they’ve said you know that’s probably not worth the damage it caused. Well gas is a similar thing, it’s created some amazing benefits for the world but I think we can actually move beyond it get better. I mean one of the thing that gives me some optimism is humanity has lived in cities for 10000 years. We’ve only used oil and gas for 100 years. It’s a blip on our history. We’ll be able to move beyond it and get back onto renewable energy like we were in the past, and I think we’ll look back in 200 years and say we were crazy to be here for that long.

SM: It’s a great ideal, but a hundred years ago we were using horse and carriages.

MH: In the last 100 years time frame we’ve eliminated, we’ve sort of move off of coal because it’s polluting. So we will moved towards gas those shifts happened with roughly within 30 year chunks so we are moving towards a renewable source of energy, so that’s where I get my sense of optimism as well.

SM: Don’t for a minute think that we’ve eliminated it from our planet, because we’re not using it, it just means that people are abusing elsewhere.

DS: Absolutely.

SM: So that’s happening here but I’ve seen in South America you know where you fly over dessert-like land in the middle of a rainforest, or swamplands and empty rivers because of unregulated mining in those areas. We have the most regulated and watched mining industries in Canada and I think we should focus on that kind of regulations worldwide instead of shutting down our industries.

DS: We’re trying. There’s only so much we can do as a city. The sort of message I will leave you with, I know sometimes when government does things it kinda leave people frustrated come up with I don’t sometimes with does things people think what are you doing this is crazy. But the reason you exist, the reason Matt and I and the city of Vancouver as a business exist is to make life better for the residents of Vancouver. And I know it may not seem like it sometimes and there’s red tape and bureaucracy we are doing it for the good of the people.

SM: Hey, even Hitler thought he was doing something good for his people. I know! It is a horrible comparison, but.

DS: So I guess you have to look around city and say, is in a good place to live?

SM: It is yeah, but for how long more?

DS: Then the people who work at the city of Vancouver, we live in this city, we really love this city. Our job is, as much as politics are involved. Our city council gets its mandate from the residents, the residents tell them what to do and if residents show up and pound on the door and say we don’t want this, or we do want this, council responds, it’s not like one or two people are deciding the fate of the city it’s the residents that make the decisions. And so you see a wonderful city out there that’s been wonderful for 50 years, it’s been a great city, and it’s going through a crazy affordability issue right now I agree a hundred percent that we need to do something about that but it’s a pretty good place to live and we want to continue to make it that way and that’s our job to keep ensuring that this is a good place to live. Even though it may seem frustrating at time.

SM: We all just feel like we’re trapped between the ideologies of different parties and your individual campaigns are just a sparring of words that will cost us our livelihoods.

DS: Yeah. Yes.

SM: Bullfrog, is that a private company or is it part of the city?

MH: Bullfrog is a private company, they are selling renewable energy credits and they are doing a good job, actually they do their due diligence. There are going to be private companies providing energy to the city of Vancouver. We’d certainly like to see more local companies providing energy to Vancouver.

SM: You can say for a fact that we’re not going to start importing garbage?

DS: Not, the not, I have no idea where it is. It’s not our decision to make it’s metro Vancouver and the province that will make that decision. Vancouver runs one landfill but we don’t run garbage incinerators or anything like that. But it is highly unlikely.

MH: But it’s could ah it’s certainly possible that whoever is using this energy is going to want to use that valuable resource for their own cities or countries, and it tends to make more sense to use it locally.

DS: Check out for local businesses to learn from each other.

DS: I mean this is really, we are not going to force anybody to really go green gas but if you wanted to this is what it is going to cost. I mean Chambar is buying green gas from Fortis so you can get a better sense of what of would be, it would be in that ballpark.

SM: Chambar is an expensive restaurant compared to the regular restaurant scene.

DS: Yes I think so. They just started in January with Fortis program. And then again the companies that are doing green whether they’re using Fortis natural gas or they are using Bullfrog. They’re not doing it because they’re being forced to, they’re doing it because they think it’s good marketing. Yeah I’ve said it makes no difference to them all except that they can say I’m going to change my tables, I’m going to get better lighting and I’m going to hire an expensive chef to come work for us. It’s just all marketing for them. We think it’s great marketing because it actually promotes you know reducing greenhouse gases and saving people money.

SM: And that’s why I had a problem with this. With lucrative restaurants using this campaign as marketing when it’s not really true, while the poor guy beside him is just like I can’t afford green energy so he’s getting all this business. I think truthful information has to be promoted in every campaign.

DS: Right.

SM: But it is false marketing because they’re not 100 percent.

DS: I think Fortis’s program you have to be 100 percent.

SM: And Bullfrog?

DS: You can buy any amount you want from Bullfrog. We don’t police how anyone advertises. But Fortis, you have to buy 100 percent if you’re going to switch to their program.

DS: This building uses 100 percent natural gas.

SM: OK. How much does it cost compared to the building next door?

DS: The problem is I don’t know the base number, I know the premium is 6,000, I think it’s in the neighbourhood of ahm, you know I don’t know what it cost to heat. I’m sorry I will find out.

SM: As residents we just want to know how much more it will cost us to be as good and green as you.

DS: If that’s what the company wants, they can spend their money however they want, you can put an ad in the paper and advertise yourself. I mean it’s you know it’s like complaining that you put an ad and I couldn’t afford to that and so that’s not fair. So, saying you have green gas in your building is no different than that.

SM: It’s a tough world out there huh?

DS: Yeah it is. It’s not a business I would want to get into.

SM: There are so many issues affordability issues. One of the saddest issues we have is the amount of suicides in this city, and sometimes I think a lot of it is lead back to affordability issues. So there is a problem.

DS: Yeah. Affordability is one of the biggest issues we have in Vancouver right now. We are pulling all the levers we have but you know as a city government the levers are very limited.

An accountant came in to give the numbers:

Accountant: The dollar amount you wanted?

DS: Yeah, for the whole of city hall

Accountant: Estimate about forty/fifty on it but don’t quote me.

DS: Oh ok. About fifty thousand?

Accountant: Per gigajoules or so, yeah it’s about 10 bucks per.

DS: With everything plus delivery charges and everything?

Accountant: For that yeah we are around 4,000 gigajoules.

DS: And then the premium is?

Accountant: That is that is all in so.

DS: Yeah, but the premium for the RNG program?

Accountant: The RNG program yeah.

DS: And what would it be if we didn’t use it.

Accountant: Well it is more than that. Remember it is over double so.

DS: OK. Okay. Thanks.


Samantha McLeod

Vancouver based food and travel writer.

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