Update: on September 26 2014, all five resolutions described below were adopted.
Six years after signing the Climate Action Charter, communities in B.C. continue to develop and pilot policies to improve energy efficiency in buildings, despite significant jurisdictional roadblocks.
Energy efficiency in the buildings sector is a low-cost, effective way to reduce carbon pollution while protecting citizens and businesses from energy rate hikes, reducing energy poverty and improving health and productivity. But without sufficient backup from the province, local governments are not able to fully implement these win-win strategies.
Five resolutions at UBCM’s 2014 convention aim to resolve these jurisdictional challenges and help communities continue to lead on energy efficiency.
Resolution B27: Leading on net-zero buildings
As a signatory to the Pacific Coast Action Plan in October 2013, B.C. committed (along with Washington, Oregon and California) to “transform the market for energy efficiency and lead the way to ‘net-zero’ buildings.” Powell River’s resolution calls on the provincial government to back up that commitment with new measures.
While California has set a target for all new residential and commercial buildings to be net-zero by 2020 and 2030, respectively, and has policies in place to help reach that goal, B.C. has no clear definition, pathway or implementation plan for net-zero buildings.
This resolution calls for an implementation timeline, ongoing improvements to the B.C. Building Code and an opt-in regulation (such as a “reach” or “stretch” code) for local governments. This opt-in regulation would enable municipalities to pilot the next energy efficiency improvements in the Building Code, and could provide an alternative way to increase building efficiency under the province’s ongoing uniform building code process, which could see some municipal bylaws on green buildings transitioned out.
Resolution B28: Provincial energy efficiency programs
The Nanaimo Regional District resolution asks the provincial government to fund comprehensive actions on residential energy efficiency, including home energy assessments and post-retrofit evaluations. Provincial grants to help pay for energy assessments ended along with LiveSmart in 2014.
Comprehensive energy assessments that treat the house as a system — reducing demand before upgrading equipment, for example — help homeowners understand their dwelling’s overall energy performance and ensure the best return on energy upgrade investments.
Resolution B64: Retrofit financing through local improvement charges
North Cowichan has two green buildings resolutions. The first asks the province to enable local governments to use local improvement charges as financing mechanisms for building energy retrofits, and to work with local governments and the utilities to develop effective financing standards and guidelines.
Financing that is tied to a property rather than an owner helps spread the investment in energy savings over the long term.
Resolution B93: Home energy labelling for new homes
North Cowichan’s second resolution asks the province to include energy assessments and home energy labels in Part 9 (single-family up to three-storey apartments) of the Building Code.
Much like food nutrition labels, home energy labels provide information about the energy performance of the home. It’s a timely resolution, given new energy requirements for single-family/duplex homes coming into effect in December. And while municipalities could require labelling as part of building permitting and inspections, adding it to the Building Code would be a simple way to move this consumer protection policy forward.
Resolution B94: Benchmarking tools for building energy use
The City of Vancouver is calling for building energy benchmarking to measure and compare the energy performance of large buildings such as offices and residential towers.
Large buildings can be energy hogs, presenting significant opportunities to reduce energy use and operating costs and community carbon pollution too. According to a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), benchmarked buildings in the U.S. have seen a seven per cent decrease in energy use over three years.
B.C. communities do not currently have the jurisdiction to require benchmarking, so Resolution B94 asks the province to change this.
A more collaborative climate strategy
B.C.’s municipalities continue to show leadership on climate change, working hard to reduce carbon pollution while protecting citizens and businesses from increasing energy prices. Many communities are grappling with the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions even as their population continues to grow: they need additional climate action tools.
Adopting the five UBCM resolutions outlined here would increase provincial-local government collaboration on climate strategy, remove some of the jurisdictional barriers blocking local government progress on energy efficiency, and offer communities new tools to meet the climate challenge.