The City of Nanaimo is banning the use of natural gas in most future buildings – including houses, retail stores and hotels – in an effort to reduce emissions.
At a council meeting Monday, Nanaimo council voted five to four in favour of implementing the province’s Zero Carbon Step Code by July 1, 2024.
The Zero Carbon Step Code is part of the B.C. Building Code, as the province aims to have all new buildings be zero-carbon by 2030.
On Monday, Nanaimo council narrowly decided to have that timeline pushed forward to next year. It’s a move that follows other B.C. municipalities, including the City of Victoria and District of Saanich, which have already restricted the use of natural gas in new builds.
The city says that in 2017, buildings and infrastructure made up approximately 31 per cent of the community’s greenhouse gas emissions – the second largest sector only behind mobility.
On Tuesday, FortisBC said it was disappointed with the city’s decision, saying that it will “also reduce affordability during a time when British Columbians are feeling the impacts of increased cost of living.”
At the same time, environmental group Stand.Earth praised the city for its vote.
The city acknowledges that electricity can increase utility costs for homeowners compared to natural gas, but says that the use of heat pumps led to the same or lower costs for as many as 70 per cent of homes participating in a recent study that compared heat pump costs to natural gas on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.
The same study did find, however, that about 12 per cent of homes also saw utility costs increase by more than 10 per cent.
Nanaimo staff will now make amendments to the city’s building bylaw, which will then come back to council for final approval.