City council heard different opinions from two delegations on the best way to reduce Nelson’s carbon footprint in an effort to support the provincial and municipal plan to transition to a lower-carbon energy future.
Fortis BC representative Blair Weston provided an overview of their plan to transition the city to support a natural gas infrastructure and said the cost to make Nelson completely electric would be extremely high.
A report provided by Fortis in their Kelowna electrification case study suggested the cost to build a completely electric grid could be anywhere between $2.6 billion and $3.4 billion.
The report also indicated providing natural gas, as opposed to an electric alternative, would be more effective because rural communities have a shortage of electrical capacity and it can also provide lower carbon emissions than local electricity.
Weston says natural gas provides more energy output compared to its electric counterpart.
“When I asked the question of how much energy is delivered by the electrical system in British Columbia, the answer is simple: 17 to 18 per cent. This is a very small amount when you compare it to natural gas.”
He says even on the coldest day of the year in December 2022, natural gas provided a lot more energy output and was more reliable than hydro.
“The hydro in British Columbia gave about 10 gigawatts of power, while gas gave out 20 gigawatts of power,” he says.
Weston says this is why having clean natural gas power is not only more efficient but it is also more reliable.
But Dr. Kyle Merritt of the Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health in Kootenay Boundary says providing a natural gas alternative not only increases greenhouse gas emissions, it also has the potential to be harmful to someone’s health.
“Natural gas still has methane in it, which is a strong contributor of air pollution and climate change,” Merritt says. “This also has direct impact on our health. There ways to mitigate it but natural gas is still a big problem.”
Merritt says Nelson has a high air pollution rate because of most of the buildings in the city have not been updated, and providing electrification would align with the city’s goals.
“Fossil fuels and buildings are driving climate change,” he says. “In the City of Nelson 33 per cent of our emissions are from buildings themselves. Without a strategy to reduce this number we are not going to meet Nelson’s goals.
“It is in the Nelson Next climate plan to have all buildings net zero ready.”
Although Merrit says there are significant differences between the two philosophies, solving the local issues will help with the global issue.
“I think the problem of contention is the global natural gas,” he says. “Fortis claims natural gas will help decarbonize and is feasible. They are using it as a rationale for connecting new homes to natural gas, and we don’t agree with that.”
Merritt says having natural gas in homes can have both short term and long term effects which range from a simple cough to stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.