February 9, 2022

The Electric Grid, Heat Pumps & Electric Vehicles: What This Means to Vancouver

Under B.C.’s  Clean Energy Act, at least 93 per cent of grid electricity must come from renewable resources such as hydropower, wind or solar. The Province’s greenhouse gas emission target aims to reduce emissions by 40 percent in 2030.

What the extreme cold snap of an early winter blast and the tortuous baking swelter resulting from the summer heat dome has taught is the importance of ways to cool and heat.  That requires a lot of energy,  mostly electric, to deal with those temperature extremes.

Vancouver’s existing detached  housing stock is  being looked at to reduce carbon pollution, with finger pointing at the fact that 60 percent of carbon pollution is the result of the use of natural gas to heat buildings and hot water in Vancouver. The City of Vancouver under the Climate Emergency Plan is focussing on detached housing where half of these emissions come from.

New regulations are proposing that Vancouver homeowners must replace furnaces and hot water tanks with mandated efficient upgrades, including electric heat pumps. Heat pumps are energy efficient, but can be more costly than conventional furnaces. You can review the  Climate Emergency: Home Heating and Cooling program  being proposed, as well as some subsidies.

The goal is to reduce carbon pollution in buildings by fifty percent within eight years. The city has workshops and is inviting feedback on this   Shape Your City link until the end of February.

The same challenge is coming for vehicles, with some studies, including this one from the University of Victoria finding that with future electrical charging requirements require a sixty percent increase in electrical capacity.

In an article written by  Tia Crawford of the Vancouver Sun ,  electric vehicles  will lower greenhouse emissions by 38 percent or 260 million tonnes of CO2. But here’s the kicker-93 percent of the energy must come from a renewable resource, nixing gas and oil use.

An all electric vehicular fleet means  changes in the future in how we move and think about charging vehicles. While the province needs to double electrical generating to 37 gigawatts, the cost of using more electricity will be more fluid. If  other renewable resources are used for creating electricity, future electricity will increase by nine percent.  Figure in electrical vehicle recharging not occurring in peak energy use times and that means cost increases may be only five percent.

Expect BC Hydro to introduce  “surge” charges in the future for using electricity at peak hours to mitigate demand. The use of solar voltaic power and wind power factor in to meet power requirements.

What does this mean for urban places? Cities must adapt to “modern” fuelled electricity from clean sources. It also means that electricity will become the “go to” fuel  for transport & for heating buildings, and developing new urban designs that integrate buildings into electrical systems.

That’s why there has been such a big push internationally to integrate Electrical Vehicle charging systems within buildings,and to look at distributed energy resources. Those are called “DERS”. We will be hearing a lot more about them in the future.

And if you are wondering how those proposed heat pump systems work, this YouTube video below from the “This Old House” series has an excellent explanation on the heating and refrigeration cycle.

Images:RichmondNews, BCTV





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  1. My question, as always, is how long does a heat pump have to work until it pays back in energy savings the amount of energy (and pollution) it took to manufacture it, and how does that compare with a conventional gas furnace – I’m only thinking about heating here, which we need in Vancouver way more than we need cooling. Smug Little Vancouver, which manufactures nothing, seems happy to export its pollution to manufacturing countries like Korea and China – oh, we sell them lots of metallurgical coal that they need for manufacturing steel.

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