energy saving

FortisBC Leads $50 million Pilot Project to Increase Energy Efficiency in Older Homes

FortisBC Energy Inc. has embarked on an extensive $50 million pilot project aimed at uncovering the best pathway to reduce energy use in older homes and multifamily housing units, which is an essential step in meeting British Columbia's climate action targets.
FortisBC Leads $50 million Pilot Project to Increase Energy Efficiency in Older Homes
Metro Vancouver - Manor House Media Shoot from FortisBC

Working with partners such as Metro Vancouver Housing and participating customers from across the Lower Mainland and Southern Interior, FortisBC now has 20 single family homes and four apartment buildings participating in a deep energy retrofit pilot. A deep energy retrofit is a comprehensive, whole-home upgrade aimed at reducing energy use by half or more.

During each phase of the multi-year pilot, FortisBC will analyze the energy reductions, customer experience and overall costs. The information gained will be invaluable for industry, policymakers and FortisBC to determine how best to ensure older housing units can continue to meet the needs of families as the province moves towards a net-zero future.

“To our knowledge, this is the largest targeted, real-world study of deep energy-efficiency upgrades in B.C. homes and the information will be invaluable to us and others looking to transform energy use,” said Joe Mazza, vice president, energy supply and resource development, FortisBC. 

Buildings account for just over 10% of B.C.’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To address this, the Province of B.C. has set a target of lowering GHG emissions in the building and communities sector by 59 to 64% of 2007 levels by 2030.

However, older homes and apartment buildings pose a complex challenge to achieving those targets because a significant number across B.C. were built before energy efficiency was incorporated into the National Energy Code for Buildings in 1997. With many expected to remain in active use by 2050, they will need to undergo a deep energy retrofit to achieve these targets.

“Metro Vancouver Housing has set targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions from our buildings by 45% (from 2010 levels) over the next 10 years and significantly bring down energy consumption through rehabilitation projects. Reducing emissions from buildings is one of the main ways that Metro Vancouver will reach its goal of becoming a carbon neutral region by 2050,” said George V. Harvie, chair, Metro Vancouver Board of Directors.

Eergy efficiency is a key pillar of FortisBC’s goal to lead the clean energy transformation in B.C. Shifting its efforts to more complex energy-efficiency opportunities is one of the ways it’s supporting its customers in making the necessary GHG emissions reductions to achieve its Clean Growth Pathway to 2050 and support the province’s CleanBC plan.

“As we evolve our energy-efficiency programs, we’ll be able to undertake deeper energy retrofit projects that are more complex, intensive and comprehensive than what’s supported today through traditional energy conservation programs and rebates,” added Mazza.

The current pilot takes an envelope-first approach, improving the building envelope (outer shell) to prevent heat loss and reduce heating demand. This includes upgrades to walls, windows, doors and insulation. Each home and building will also have its space heating, domestic hot water and ventilation systems upgraded to be as energy efficient as possible.

This includes installing new gas heating technologies like dual-fuel hybrid systems or gas heat pumps that have achieved efficiencies of more than 100% in manufacturers’ testing, and determining if this can be replicated in real-word settings.

Each of the participating homes and buildings have now undergone a detailed energy assessment, modelling and design phase and these early indicators show promising results. For example, Metro Vancouver Housing is participating with Manor House, a 1972 three-level apartment building in North Vancouver that provides affordable housing to 50 households. The project is projected to reduce GHG emissions by 66% and energy usage by 56%.

All 20 participating single family homes have completed the majority of upgrades and construction is now underway in the four apartment buildings. Once complete, each home and building will be tested for one year to determine the energy savings.

With FortisBC planning to invest close to $700 million in energy-savings programs over the next four years, the information gained from the pilot will be invaluable in establishing the most effective, affordable ways to lower energy use in existing buildings and will help inform future incentive programs. FortisBC and its industry partners plan to use the findings to determine what to replicate in similar buildings and set benchmarks for future upgrade projects, policy decisions and incentive programs.

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