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Council approves first phase of Burnaby District Energy Utility

The first phase is expected to cost $7.6 million

At its meeting on April 15, Burnaby City Council approved the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and design for the first phase of the Burnaby District Energy Utility Project. The project, when completed, will aim to generate clean energy from the heat waste created by processes such as waste processing. The first phase will cost $7,606,985, including $362,238 in GST. Council adopted a District Energy policy at its meeting on Sept. 11, 2023

Illustration of the new District Energy Utility project. Photo: City of Burnaby

According to a report submitted to council on April 15, a feasibility study showed that the project’s first phase from 2025-2030 will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 13,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The report also stated that the project will further reduce greenhouse gasses with each phase. The following two phases will last from 2030-2040 and 2040-2050. 

“The city is committed to climate action and developing a District Energy Utility (DEU) to serve the space heating and domestic hot water needs of buildings in South Burnaby. The city expects to see significant growth in the Metrotown and Edmonds areas over the next 40 years. This presents a significant opportunity for these areas to implement a District Energy System (DES),” the report said. 

The project aims to generate heat for energy and hot water from a Metro Vancouver incinerator in the Big Bend area to meet South Burnaby’s energy and heating needs. 

“The DEU will capture waste heat from the existing Waste-to-Energy (WTEF) Facility in Burnaby and transport it via piped hot water to provide clean thermal energy to residents and businesses,” the report said. 

During the meeting, James Lota, the general manager of lands and facilities for the city, updated council on the project. According to Lota, the city is currently working with Metro Vancouver on the project. 

“Not only is it not impacting the park, we’re planning for it to have amenities to enhance the park, such as publicly accessible washrooms for example and an environmental education centre in there,” Lota said. 

Coun. Alison Gu said she is very excited about the new system, and it can help the city step away from the electrification of buildings due to concerns about BC Hydro’s electricity supply. 

“Waste heat is everywhere. We don’t think about it on a day-to-day basis necessarily, but everything from commercial grocery store refrigerators to ice rinks to data centres, where there are a lot of computer processing sites to sewage. We can capture that waste heat and use it to be able to heat water and space and limit the amount of electricity that we are relying on to power our buildings,” Gu said. 

Diagram of the District Energy Utility project. Photo: City of Burnaby

She added that district energy systems help reduce costly electrical grid upgrades, improve resiliency for cooling and warming with climate change, and free up roofs for community gardens and shared spaces. 

Gu added that the new system would improve efficiency, and improving efficiency is one way to improve housing affordability and people’s daily lives. 

“If we were to build a district energy system that was powered by fossil gas, it would still be several times more efficient than if we were to connect each individual building into their own systems. So I’m really looking forward to having a more cohesive build out of district energy, not just throughout the city, but hopefully other municipalities in the region can follow,” Gu said. 

Coun. Daniel Tetrault spoke about the necessity of better communication and engagement with the public, adding that a communications plan is necessary to inform the public to generate interest in the project and explain how it can provide an alternative to electrifying the city and reduce fossil fuel dependency. 

According to the council report, public engagement generated little interest, with only one response submitted to the city. However, Lota said another communications plan will come forward in the coming months. 

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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