Ideas for Expanding Alternative Energy in Burnaby Homes from City Councillor

solar plant

Burnaby is launching its garbage-powered District Energy Utility (DEU) in Metrotown and Edmonds, and now a city councillor is proposing that the rest of the city also embrace alternative energy.

Councillor Alison Gu has requested city staff to explore methods to encourage developers to implement district energy systems beyond the areas mandated to connect to the DEU.

District energy systems consist of a network of pipes that transfer thermal energy between buildings, providing heating, hot water, and cooling as needed.

Burnaby already hosts several district energy systems, including the Burnaby Mountain District Energy Utility at SFU, the Solo District in Brentwood, and Burnaby Central Secondary School.

According to the city, approximately 38 percent of Burnaby’s carbon emissions originate from buildings, with the majority of these emissions resulting from traditional heating methods, Gu noted at a council meeting on June 10.

In light of concerns about BC Hydro’s capacity to meet electricity demand, Gu highlighted district energy systems as a “powerful third alternative.”

She proposed policy measures to promote district energy systems, such as giving priority to developments that incorporate these systems.

Gu pointed out that while the province has recently limited cities from allowing developers to pay cash in exchange for permission to build more homes, it does permit cities to exchange increased density (more homes) for “pre-established amenities.”

She suggested that staff investigate if district energy systems could be considered one of these amenities.

Several councillors supported the idea, though Councillor Richard Lee requested an analysis to determine whether district energy would increase costs for developers and subsequently raise housing prices.

Gu responded by emphasizing that, unlike electricity or fossil fuels, district energy offers a stable monthly rate, irrespective of external temperature or energy consumption.

“This stability allows for better planning and typically comes at or below the cost of conventional energy sources,” Gu explained, adding that builders save money by installing a centralized mechanical system instead of individual heating and cooling systems like HVAC and boilers.

Gu’s motion was unanimously approved. The staff will study the proposal and report back to the council in the future.