Demonstrating ongoing leadership
Burnaby is a city that has always demonstrated how we value parks and green space. Our recognition of the need for climate action has been demonstrated and documented for decades. Our 1993 State of the Environment report noted the need to take action, as did the 1998 Official Community Plan (OCP). As a result, we added even more parks, improved energy efficiency in facilities, added renewables and reduced fleet emissions. In 2016, we completed an Environmental Sustainability Strategy that further advanced our plans to reduce carbon emissions and secure the benefits of taking action to combat climate change. Since then, the need to reduce carbon emissions has become more urgent and apparent–marking the emergency declared by council in 2019.
To support the Climate Action Framework, demonstrate leadership and ensure a healthy, green, livable and prosperous community, the City is advancing a City Energy Strategy that will see us use our own facilities and fleet to showcase carbon neutral operations. The strategy commits the City to meeting the carbon neutral climate target across corporate operations by 2040, 10 years ahead of the community target.
Key actions to date
Burnaby was the first municipality in Metro Vancouver to convert all streetlights to energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The conversion of 11,600 streetlights reduces energy consumption by approximately 60 percent and saves the City approximately $750,000 a year in energy costs. The move is also expected to save $900,000 in maintenance costs over 20 years. Conversion of the streetlights cost $4.8 million, which will be recovered in 6 years.
In terms of climate, reducing electrical use results in small carbon emissions savings due to BC's low-carbon hydroelectricity. However, the LED conversion demonstrates leadership and fiscal responsibility and makes clean electricity available for other uses.
The City has completed considerable work on building energy optimization, beginning with the retrofitting of 49 facilities between 2004 and 2006. This early work resulted in a verified reduction of more than 1200 tCO2e (units to quantify greenhouse gas emissions, emissions reductions and carbon credit) annually. Ongoing building optimization has continued to provide energy efficiency and GHG reductions through the BC Hydro Strategic Energy Management Planning program (SEMP), in place since 2010. SEMP focuses on energy conservation and cost savings for both electricity and natural gas. Through this program, facilities continue to transition to more efficient heating, hot water and lighting systems.
Recently, the focus has been on the transition to LED lights. In 2017 and 2018, LED conversions in 10 facilities led to estimated electrical savings of more than 700,000 kWh annually. LED conversions at 19 facilities in 2019 resulted in savings of more than 750,000 kWh. Additionally, high-efficiency boiler replacements have reduced natural gas usage and associated GHG emissions. Building recommissioning has also reduced energy use and carbon emission, such as at the Edmonds Community Centre, where the 2018 recommissioning program reduced the use of natural gas use by 32% and electricity by 5%.
Annual carbon emission reductions from these retrofits are smaller than the initial "big lift" following the 2004 to 2006 program, due in part to the limited carbon emission reductions achieved through electrical energy efficiency (BC's grid electricity is already low-carbon), and diminishing returns on investment once big reductions have been achieved. Fuel switching from natural gas to electricity, and, in the future, to a limited 2,221 t supply of renewable natural gas, will be required to achieve carbon neutrality in existing facilities.
Civic facilities built over the past 15 years have incorporated energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. The Tommy Douglas Library, for example, built in 2009, makes use of geothermal (ground-source) heating, eliminating the need for natural gas while providing adequate heating throughout the library. In 2013, the Bonsor pool was retrofitted with solar thermal (hot water) heating.
Reducing natural gas demand at facilities has enabled the addition of new facilities, such as the Edmonds Community Centre in 2013, without increasing carbon emissions. In fact, carbon emissions in Burnaby's facilities trended downward from 2011 to 2019, due to efficiency upgrades, increased electrification and a decrease in natural gas usage–even as the City brought new facilities online. Electricity use and total energy consumption increased marginally over the same time period, levelling off or declining in the past 2 years.
The current downward trend line in facility emissions is unlikely to reach the City's climate emergency target of carbon neutrality–mostly because much of the 'low-hanging fruit' has already been harvested and several new facilities are due to come online over the next decade. Continued building optimization as well as heating and hot water system electrification in existing facilities will be required through 2040 to meet the City's carbon neutral commitment. New facilities that are not zero emissions in their operations will add to the ongoing transition challenge, or add demand for limited renewable natural gas.
In 2010, the City began using 10% ethanol (gasoline mix) and 5% biodiesel, which at the time was more than the mandated BC Low Carbon Fuel Standard of 5% ethanol and 4% biodiesel. We also moved to purchase energy-efficient vehicles where appropriate, particularly light-duty cars and trucks. A new Fuel Management System, in place as of 2016, and improved vehicle telematics, have enabled improved fuel and vehicle performance tracking. Some equipment, such as mowers at the golf courses, has been transitioned to electric, although the majority of parks and engineering equipment currently operates using diesel or gasoline.
Between 2016 and 2019, fleet fuel use and carbon emissions have remained relatively constant. The majority of fleet emissions come from heavy-duty diesel vehicles, such as those used in solid waste and recycling collection. Heavy-duty and light-duty E10 gasoline both gas and diesel, comprise just over 10%. Light-duty vehicles, such as passenger cars, produce the fewest fleet emissions
What are our current projects?
The City currently has 3 projects undergoing feasibility studies to assess impact and cost:
- City Hall solar photovoltaic systems
- the Burnaby and Metro Vancouver Waste-to-Energy District Energy study
- the proposed Burnaby organics to biogas facility
Burnaby will continue to bring forward, review and support renewable energy projects that meet the City Energy Strategy's principles and decision criteria, with a focus on those that reduce emissions, increase resilience and meet operational requirements.
The City is providing workplace electric vehicle charging at City facilities for staff, to demonstrate leadership on the energy transition.
Charging infrastructure will be added to existing facilities based on available electric infrastructure, and included in the design of new facilities. Fees for charging will be applied. Where possible, staff charging facilities will double as public use charging stations during non-staff hours.
The City is accelerating virtual technology development and innovation to reduce transportation trips within Burnaby.
This action commits the City to accelerating commitments to technology improvements and innovation to reduce staff trips (e.g. virtual meetings across facilities), as well as enhancing the provision of online services for Burnaby residents and businesses, reducing their need to drive to City Hall and other City facilities.
Burnaby's Green Team produces annual environmental challenges for staff, such as Wake-On-LAN, Working by Daylight, Vacation Ready Checklist, Enhanced Employee Transit Incentive Program, Bike to Work Week, Commuter Challenge, Stair Riser Campaign, Throwback Sweater Day and The Chilling Truth About Winter Idling.
This action commits the City to continue and enhance its staff engagement across Departments, building staff commitment to take action on the climate emergency.