Both residents and political leaders of Saanich would need to “ramp up” current efforts if the community wants to reach the goal of using 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050, says the author of a forthcoming report.
Tom Hackney, policy director of the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association, made these comments in a far-reaching interview following a recent town hall meeting at Saanich Commonwealth Place.
The event – which drew more than 130 people, according to Hackney – occurred under the umbrella of several environmental, social and municipal organizations including the District of Saanich and explored various issues that would confront individuals and institutions in Saanich should the community commit itself to a future, where 100 per cent of its energy would qualify as renewable.
No such formal commitment currently exists and Saanich would have to cut existing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 80 per cent over 34 years if it were to pursue it.
“It would be a significant challenge,” said Hackney, when asked about the achievability of the goal against the background of current practices and policies.
Hackney said the District of Saanich already has an Official Community Plan that can serve as a framework towards 100 per cent renewable energy, because the plans contain policy directions to make the community more walkable, maintain the urban boundary, as well as directions for municipal operations to reduce GHGs emissions and conserve energy.
“What is needed is for these policy initiatives to be linked to the (100 per cent renewable energy) goal, so that the degree of effort and rate of change can be factored into the policies,” he said.
While Saanich’s OCP points in the right direction, he said everybody needs to step up their efforts.
“The whole community will have to take actions,” he said, adding that personal choices must complement public policies.
Hackney is drafting a report that describes existing energy consumption patterns and contrasts them with alternative proposals that would cut energy use and therefore GHGs. He hopes to present it to council early next year.
According to Hackney’s report, Saanich’s 111,000 residents will consume 10.3 million giga-joules of energy in 2016. Buildings would account for 60 per cent of this figure, with transportation accounting for the rest.
Under a business-as-usual scenario, Saanich’s energy consumption would rise from 6.2 million GJ to 7.4 million GJ in 2050 as its population reaches 130,000.
Under this scenario, 72 per cent of Saanich’s energy for buildings would come from renewable hydro-electricity by 2030, up from 65 per cent in 2016. The rest would come mainly from non-renewable sources such as natural gas (26 per cent) and oil or propane (one per cent).
Energy use, however, would drop to 4.3 million GJ by 2030 if Saanich were to adopt various energy conservation measures. They include the promotion of passive house standards, heat pumps and urban densification. That scenario also calls for the increased use of bio-methane as a fuel source.
These steps – coupled with Saanich’s existing use of renewable energy thanks to hydro-power from B.C. Hydro – could lower energy consumption to 4.8 million GJ by 2030.
Turning to transportation, it accounts for 4.1 million GJ. All of this consumed energy is non-renewable.
Under Hackney’s business-as-usual scenario, its share would drop to 38 per cent, with renewable energy from hydro-power (57 per cent) and liquid natural gas (four per cent) accounting for the rest.
Under the renewable energy scenario, total energy consumption would drop to 0.3 million GJ by 2050.
Eighty-eight per cent of energy consumed in transportation would come from electricity, as personal vehicles with electric engines will have largely replaced personal vehicles with internal combustion engines, said Hackney, an assumption based on current trends.
Bio-fuels would account for the remaining 12 per cent of energy consumed in 2050. Most of the modelled reduction, however, would come from what Hackney calls “mode-shifting.”
It would see Saanich residents rely heavily on public transit and walking as part of an urban environment mixing residential and commercial activities.
“When you have good transit and good walkable communities, you will have much less need for a personal vehicle,” he said.
Such a shift, however, would also require significant changes to Saanich’s urban form and the philosophy behind it, a shift that has not happened yet, as the suburban model of residential living remains strong, Hackney said.