The City of Vancouver has gained global attention for its sustainable urban development strategies in recent decades. Many cities have attempted to transfer the “Vancouver model” – comprising an integrated policy approach to sustainable urban development – to their local contexts. Vancouver aims to generate 55% of its total energy from renewables by 2030 and 100% by 2050. Currently, the share is 31%, primarily from hydropower and a small percentage of biomass, biofuels, wind and solar energy.

Vancouver’s integrated policy approach links energy use and improved infrastructure with sustainable urban development. The Renewable City Strategy, published in 2015, addresses the energy question in the context of environmental, economic and social sustainability. The urban development goal of the City of Vancouver is to plan a liveable and sustainable city, and energy use is an integral part of it. To achieve this, the City has implemented complementary strategies such as the Neighbourhood Energy Strategy (2012) and the Climate Emergency Response (2019).

The Neighbourhood Energy Strategy aims to accelerate several measures, including: reducing the number of trips via single-occupancy vehicles and shifting to more sustainable modes of travel; building public EV charging infrastructure; and improving energy efficiency in buildings through green building policies, bylaws, plans and design standards. The Neighbourhood Energy Strategy is aligned with the city’s overall plan for 100% renewable energy by 2050, which calls for all district energy systems to run on 100% renewables by 2050. The Strategy has helped develop additional neighbourhood energy systems supplying centralised heating, hot water and cooling for multiple buildings throughout Vancouver. Vancouver’s climate work also relies on a Climate and Equity Working Group to ensure that new policies strive to support the local economy and improve equity.i

As part of its Climate Emergency Response, the city also adapted a long-term climate target of being carbon neutral before 2050, complementing its 100% renewable energy target. In 2020, the city council approved a ban on fossil fuel appliances for all residential buildings. The bylaw requires zero-emission space and water heating for all residential buildings of three storeys or less as of January 2022.

Also in Vancouver, the Sewage Heat Recovery Expansion Project will increase the capacity of the Neighbourhood Energy Utilityii to provide buildings in the False Creek area with low-carbon heat and hot water using waste thermal energy captured from sewage. The project recycles waste heat and uses a mix of renewable and conventional natural gas to reduce emissionsiii. Expansion plans approved in 2018 would result in 2.1 million square metres of city building space being served, with an expected reduction of 14,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year by 2021.

Source: See endnote 184 in the Urban Policy Landscape chapter.

iTo support the city’s climate targets, in 2020 the Vancouver City Council approved an ambitious CAD 500 million (USD 383 million) climate action plan that aims to reduce natural gas heating in existing buildings, discourage vehicle use and explore less-polluting ways to produce and transport construction materials.i

iiThe utility is self-funded, simultaneously providing a return on investment to city taxpayers and affordable rates to customers. The utility began operations in 2010 and as of 2019 had served 534,000 square metres of building space.ii

iiiThis mix eliminates more than 60% of the greenhouse gas pollution associated with heating buildings in the city. iii