If a Nanaimo bylaw passes its fourth and final reading at its next council meeting Oct. 16, newly constructed homes won’t be allowed to have natural gas as their main source of heating.
The ban would go into effect starting July 2024.
“Nanaimo has made a firm commitment on climate action so we’re going forward with this and there’s a lot of support and a lot of people have been writing in extremely hopeful about the direction we’ve been taking,” said Coun. Ben Geselbracht on Friday.
Geselbracht was one of five councillors to vote in favour the the ban.
If passed, the bylaw will come into effect six years before a provincial target date for the maximum levels of its zero-carbon rule for new homes.
“And basically what was strongly advised was the only way we actually can have a hope of meeting our targets is to fuel-switch back to electric technology, and now with high efficiency electric systems with heat pumps it’s very possible to do it now,” he added.
The third reading vote at this week’s council meeting was five to three in favour. Councillors Sheryl Armstrong, Ian Thorpe and Janice Perrino voted against the ban.
“I think we should respect the provincial timeline. I’m very concerned that we don’t have the grid to support this,” said Armstrong. “I’m worried about the impact on jobs and we’ve got people here who said for us it’s heat or eat. You know electricity is a lot of money.”
“We’re moving too quickly on this issue, Dean, and I don’t think it’s fair to our business community to ask them to make this radical change within the space of a year, or in fact 10 months,” said Ian Thorpe.
At Pioneer Wood Heat Supplies, where they sell gas fireplaces, they say they’ll see a third of their business disappear overnight.
“There’s not point having a fireplace if there’s no gas line to the house, and that is the nature of this ban as I call it, is that they basically eliminated Fortis’ ability to put a gas line into a community, a new community or a new home in a cost-effective manner,” said general manager Chris Bowen.
Fortis BC says it has solutions that are being overlooked and is concerned about the natural gas ban.
“We do have solutions as well, such as renewable natural gas,” said Fortis BC director of energy solutions Jason Wolfe. “And it’s important to keep access to the gas system as well for resiliency, for our security, to ensure we can heat our homes in the winter when it’s cold. And for all those reasons we think Nanaimo should have considered supporting the renewable gas application that we had and delaying a little bit the implementation of this zero carbon step code.”
View Royal and Saanich have already banned natural gas in new builds and Victoria says it could be coming here too.
“Not yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did come sometime soon. Certainly there’s an appetite with this council in particular to look at what would be seen as future-based types of energy sources,” said Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto.