The City of Burnaby is committed to strengthening our commitment to climate action and resilience, and the Burnaby District Energy Utility (BDEU) project is an important part of this commitment. The BDEU will provide Burnaby with safe, reliable, sustainable, resilient and cost-competitive thermal energy. This project will help the City meet our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets and integrate with the City’s Green Building strategy for reducing building emissions.
About this project
The City is planning to develop a district energy utility that would receive thermal energy from Metro Vancouver’s district energy system and supply it to high density residential, commercial, industrial, healthcare and institutional buildings in Burnaby neighbourhoods.
Thermal energy will be captured from heat from Metro Vancouver’s waste-to-energy facility in south Burnaby. In the future, additional low-carbon sources could be integrated into the system as district energy systems are more flexible to changes and developments in energy sources. This energy will be used by Metro Vancouver’s district energy system for regional distribution, and by the Burnaby District Energy Utility for neighbourhood distribution. The heat will be distributed through a network of connected underground pipes that will deliver heat to buildings for space heating and domestic hot water heating.
District energy is a versatile, proven technology used in cities across the world and is at the forefront of efforts to transition buildings to a low carbon, sustainable future. Rather than each building having its own furnaces or boilers, a district energy system can provide thermal energy to multiple buildings–or even entire neighbourhoods–through a central energy plant. Hot water produced at the plant is transmitted 24/7 through highly insulated underground network of thermal piping. The thermal energy is transferred directly to the building’s heating system, simplifying building operations.
What are benefits of Burnaby’s District Energy Utility?
Benefits to the community
- Climate action: significant reduction in the amount of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions—estimate 82% reduction or 22,400 tonnes of CO2e (annually) when compared to business as usual.
- A low-carbon energy source: multiple buildings can connect to a system that uses a more sustainable energy source—the heat from an existing waste-to-energy facility. This provides a long-term, consistent, and low-carbon energy supply for the community.
- Flexibility: different heat sources can be used to supply heat to the district energy system (DES), allowing the City to consider the use of many different heat sources both now and in the future.
- Local economic development: the development and operation of a local DEU supports local ‘green’ job creation.
- Resilience and adaptation benefits: when designed correctly, the building-scale mechanical equipment required to connect to DEU are less prone to encountering issues such as flooding associated damage.
- Reduced demand on Power Grid: the electrical power grid faces the challenge of meeting increased demands. The DEU will reduce demand on the power grid.
Benefits to customers
- Affordable energy: DEU can deliver energy at competitive rates to connected buildings.
- Competitive or reduced life-cycle costs: because thermal energy is delivered to buildings in a ready-to-use form, buildings connected to a DEU need to invest less in equipment such as boilers.
- Fuel flexibility and adaptability: DES can switch to different fuel systems, taking advantage of future opportunities for affordable fuel and lower costs.
- Simplified building operations: connected buildings have simplified building operations, allowing customers precise control over heating and providing flexibility to adapt as occupant needs change or building efficiency improves.
Benefits for developers
- Free up roof tops: mechanical equipment may be relocated from the roof to the building’s basement. This can free up space for other high demand uses like community rooms or penthouse apartments, amenity space, or additional residential units. In addition, the energy transfer stations (ETSs) located in each building require less space than boilers freeing up space in the basement.
- Reduce capital costs: removing the need for building components like a heat source and domestic hot water storage tanks can save up front design and capital costs.
- Expand marketing opportunities: a reliable, stable and resilient energy system can be marketed as insurance against future climate impacts, while a low-carbon system can be promoted to people looking to reduce their environmental footprint without impacting their lifestyle.
What is happening now?
At the March 27, 2023 Council meeting, City Council supported the draft DEU policy and directed staff to proceed with the next steps to advancing the DEU policy.
Questions and answers
District energy systems are efficient and cost-effective ways of distributing thermal energy to high density residential, commercial and institutional buildings in a neighbourhood using clean, renewable energy sources.
By connecting many buildings into a single network, district energy systems have the advantage of being able to provide low carbon thermal energy across an entire neighbourhood. This results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions for all buildings connected to the system, faster and with less cost than if each building had to accomplish this on its own.
Thermal energy is usable heat than can be produced from various sources, and is transferred by a medium (e.g., water) through a change in temperature. In the case of the DES, the thermal energy produced by the waste to energy process will be used to increase the temperature of the water contained within the DES, which will then flow through the distribution piping system to the connected buildings, in turn transferring this energy to the buildings' space and domestic water heating systems.
There are already district energy systems in operation in Burnaby including the Burnaby Mountain District Energy Utility at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Solo District and Burnaby Central Secondary School.
BDEU will provide space and domestic hot water heating for connected buildings. The main heat source is clean, thermal energy captured from Metro Vancouver's existing waste-to-energy facility, which is planned to service buildings in south Burnaby, with capacity to expand into additional service areas.
Metro Vancouver’s waste-to-energy facility in south Burnaby is an industrial waste heat source that exists regardless of the BDEU and the BDEU will take advantage of the available waste heat from the facility. The BDEU will displace other heat sources, including natural gas, and will provide additional efficiencies due to economies of scale resulting in GHG reductions.
Recognizing the dangers posed by climate change, Burnaby City Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019. This emergency declaration set new carbon reduction targets for the City with carbon neutrality in 2050.
The BDEU will provide safe, reliable thermal energy that ensures resiliency, and will provide space heat that is three times more energy efficient than the current use of the facility (current is electricity).
Yes. The City of Burnaby is committed to strengthening our commitment to climate action and resilience, and the District Energy Utility (DEU) project is an important part of this commitment. The City is making policy changes to support our climate action objectives.
Currently, the thermal energy is used to produce electricity that powers nearly 16,000 homes, with significant waste heat still available. Furthermore, using additional waste-to-energy heat directly for heating purposes is three times more efficient than converting it to electricity.
There is a large heat supply from the waste-to-energy facility available which is currently planned for district heating and domestic hot water. District cooling is currently being explored.
The BDEU will provide energy at or below market rates. The rates will be determined in a similar manner as sewer and water rates—the City will provide the capital funding to develop the distribution and connections and will recover costs through rates.
Existing buildings would have the option to connect to the BDEU within areas served by the BDEU where it is feasible and cost effective to do so. If new buildings are within the designated service areas:
- there will be mandatory connection in the core service areas of Metrotown and Edmonds
- they will have to be DE ready in the expansion service areas along Willingdon Avenue south of the Trans Canada Highway and Kingsway between Metrotown and Edmonds
- connection will be optional in other areas south of the Trans Canada Highway
For more information, please see the Draft DE Policy.
Yes, there would be less equipment required in the buildings due to energy transfer stations requiring less space than conventional building energy systems.
Yes. We have already begun consultation with UDI and we will continue outreach with impacted stakeholders, including UDI.
Plans are currently underway for the DEU to be operational in 2026 with potential for further expansion to additional service areas.