Emissions from the City of Abbotsford's vehicles make up the largest share of the municipality's emissions.
File photo

Vancouver Island councillor leads campaign to reduce building-sector GHG emissions

Courtenay’s Will Cole-Hamilton pushing for building emission legislation

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton wants local governments to carry a little more clout when it comes to reducing building-sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

He suggests the Union of B.C. Municipalities can help by pressuring provincial ministries to consult with local governments to implement a set of measures — regulating emissions for new and existing buildings, among them — that would help B.C. attain near-term emission targets.

Another initiative concerns Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) — a program that finances retrofits and green energy projects such as solar panels. Along with its environmental benefits, Cole-Hamilton said the program has strong potential as an economic driver to create jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.

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In the U.S., PACE has led to 300,000-plus retrofits and $16.5 billion in economic activity in 37 states. Cole-Hamilton said the program requires provincial legislation to work in B.C.

“It doesn’t have to be complex legislation,” he said. “I think the government, not surprisingly, wants to see that there’s an appetite for this, that there’s a desire by local governments to get this done.”

Cole-Hamilton sits on steering committees of PACE BC and Help Cities Lead. The latter is a B.C.-based campaign that is urging the province to grant authority to local governments to enact five inter-related policies (including PACE) that would allow municipalities to take action on GHGs from buildings.

Both organizations are seeking support from local governments as they begin to lobby the province. Cole-Hamilton has been leading the outreach. Since last month, the committees have secured resolutions of support from Victoria, Nanaimo, Powell River, the District of North Vancouver, Kitimat, Fernie, Oak Bay, Highlands, Summerland and Courtenay.

Cole-Hamilton and other members of the HCL steering committee will discuss the campaign March 9 with David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing.

PACE endorsed by local company

Cumberland-based Hakai Energy Solutions contacted Cole-Hamilton to learn more about PACE and its potential to strengthen business and create jobs. The solar energy company has endorsed the program by adding its logo to the PACE BC website.

Hakai designer Rob MacInnis said the company recognizes the biggest barrier to large scale and rapid adoption is the upfront capital cost requirement.

“British Columbia and Vancouver Island have such an enthusiasm for sustainability and environmental awareness,” MacInnis said. “Where energy comes from and how we use it are conversations that folks are really interested to have. We get asked all the time, ‘How can I get involved with solar if I’m not able to purchase my own system?’ The PACE BC program would be an answer for this.”

MacInnis added that the solar photo-voltaic (PV) industry has “passed the point of grid parity,” whereby the cost of solar energy has become less expensive over its lifetime than utility supplied electricity.

“We are starting to see municipalities and other local champions demonstrating how solar photo-voltaics will become part of the mainstream energy mix. We need this leadership and public visibility to set British Columbia’s communities on a path of success towards energy sustainability for generations to come.”

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