The city of Vancouver’s sustainable energy strategy focuses
on district energy systems as a key means for reducing greenhouse
gases. The strategy involves two key actions: ( 1) connection of
new buildings to systems where existing district energy systems are
established or under development and ( 2) assurance that buildings
are constructed with DE-R hydronic heating systems in medium- to
high-density areas that do not currently have a district energy system but are likely to in the future.
The city of Vancouver developed District Energy Connectivity
Guidelines – Information for Developers in July 2011. These guidelines require that buildings greater than 2,000 sq m ( 21,500 sq ft)
in certain high-priority areas of the city must be designed to be
connectable to district heating.
It is worth noting that historically the typical heating system in
the Vancouver area has been electric baseboard. The power grid
serving Vancouver is dominated by hydroelectricity, a zero-carbon
but limited resource. Further, hydronic heating systems have a higher initial cost than electric baseboard systems. However, as is the
case in many European countries, policy makers decided to install a
low-temperature hot water infrastructure to serve low-temperature
end uses (space heating and domestic hot water), reserving the
hydroelectric resources for end uses requiring electricity, which is a
high-quality form of energy.
Legally and culturally, it is more difficult for local governments
in the U.S. to impose the kinds of requirements just described in
Vancouver. In some states, such as Virginia, counties and cities can
only exercise authority – including the authority to place limits on
developing private property – that has been specifically granted to
them by the state assembly. (Such states are often referred to as
“Dillon’s Rule” states).
Mark Spurr is legislative director of IDEA. He also is
president of FVB Energy Inc., a U.S. consulting firm
specializing in district energy and CHP business
development, engineering and marketing, with offices in
Minneapolis, Minn., and Seattle, Wash. FVB also has
offices in Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver, Canada;
and in Stockholm, Västerås and other cities in Sweden.
Spurr represents the United States on the executive
committee of the International Energy Agency Implementing Agreement
on District Heating and Cooling, including the Integration of CHP. He may
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.