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FortisBC to invest $696M to promote energy efficiency

Funds to support pilot programs for deep retrofit technology such as dual-fuel hybrid heating systems

Dual-fuel hybrid heating system like this one will be trialled by FortisBC in its latest energy-efficiency investment. (Courtesy FortisBC)

British Columbia’s regulated utility FortisBC plans to invest $695.8 million over the next four years into rebates and pilot programs to help customers reduce energy use and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Most of the money ($626.7 million) will go toward reducing the energy use of FortisBC’s gas customers, and the remaining funds will go to energy-saving programs for electricity customers in the southern interior of B.C.

The company’s residential, commercial and industrial clients will also benefit from the support.

The investment will offset approximately 740,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) over the lifetime of its measures, according to a release.

“There’s an urgent need to address climate change. This is a key pillar in our plans to help our province hit its climate action target, as well as our own,” Nicole Brown, FortisBC’s corporate communications manager for conservation and energy management programs, told Sustainable Biz Canada.

Going deeper on energy conservation

The investment represents FortisBC’s growing focus on energy efficiency, according to Brown. She cited its steady climb from investing $35.4 million in its gas and electricity programs in 2015, to approving $155.5 million in 2023 and now $182.3 million in 2024.

Critical to the investment is an effort to go deeper in FortisBC’s greenhouse gas reductions. An example is a pilot program for deep energy retrofits by exploring technologies such as dual-fuel hybrid heating systems. These systems pair a heat pump with a high-efficiency gas furnace to ensure heat reliability on colder days while reducing overall emissions.

Another technology being explored is gas source heat pumps, which Brown said can exceed energy efficiency rates of 100 per cent and cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50 per cent.

FortisBC has 20 homes and four apartment buildings where it is testing various strategies for energy-use reduction in a $50-million project, Brown said. The pilots will inform FortisBC’s rebate programs, which it already offers for insulation and preventing heat loss from windows and doors, a release states.

FortisBC will also look to improve industrial processes in sectors such as mining. Funding will be allocated for energy audits, energy design and energy modelling.

The program will be open to FortisBC’s 1.25 million customers.

“With this funding, we can support some of the most challenging but impactful ways to reduce energy use and help transform how customers use energy in their homes and businesses,” Joe Mazza, vice-president of energy supply and resource development at FortisBC, said in the release.

FortisBC’s climate goal

The investment comes after FortisBC received BC Utilities Commission approval for its 2024-to-2027 gas demand side management plan.

In the plan, FortisBC pledged to reduce gas use by 3.9 million gigajoules and slash its greenhouse gas emissions by over 200,000 tCO2e in the four-year period. Over a lifetime, the measures will cut 14.4 million gigajoules of gas use and 744,762 tCO2e.

FortisBC’s target is to reduce its customers’ greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 based on a 2007 baseline.

“We want to exceed that, and energy conservation is a key pillar of that,” Brown said.

Meeting the 2030 target includes investments in more renewable natural gas, energy conservation efforts, exporting liquified natural gas, and testing small carbon capture devices in natural gas boilers and hot water tanks.

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