Southeast False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility pipes

Renewable energy options for buildings

Renewable energy sources for buildings typically provide heating and cooling or electricity.

There are a variety of energy sources you can choose from:

  • Electrical energy can be created by both large and small hydro projects, solar panels, and wind.
  • Space heat can be created with biomethane, heat pumps, baseboard heating using renewable electricity, or renewable waste streams such as biomethane, recycled wood, and sewer heat.
  • Heating and cooling can be created with geoexchange systems.

Solar panels and hot water systems

Solar systems take the energy in sunlight to make either electricity (PV) or heat (thermal).

Solar panels

A residential solar energy system uses solar panels made up of photovoltaic cells to collect the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity.

The most common type of residential solar system is a grid-tied system, which allows the building to use its own solar-generated electricity. When the system isn’t producing electricity at night, electricity is provided by the electrical grid. One of the benefits of a grid-tied system is that any excess electricity produced by the system can be fed back to the electrical grid through a process known as net metering.

Solar hot water systems

Solar thermal systems (also known as active solar systems or solar hot water systems) use solar radiation to provide hot water or, less commonly, space heating.


Large and small wind turbines

Wind turbines produce electricity.

Small wind turbines

Small wind turbines can produce enough energy to partially meet the electricity needs of a home.

Large wind turbines

Large turbines, often grouped in wind farms, are widely used by electricity companies across Canada to provide electrical energy to electricity grids.


Heat pumps and geoexchange

Heat pumps and geoexchange take energy from the air or ground to provide heat or hot water.

Heat pumps

Heat pumps can take heat from the air or ground and use it to provide space heat or hot water. A heat pump can use the heat from outside air or the ground to keep a building warm or cool and produce hot water. Domestic heat pumps are commercially available and widely used to meet the complete space heat needs of homes and developments.


Geoexchange systems (geothermal heat pumps or ground-source heat pumps) use the heating or cooling properties of the ground that make a basement warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer to heat or cool a building. This technology is commercially available.


Neighbourhood renewable energy systems

A neighbourhood energy centre generates heat that is distributed through a network of hot water or steam pipes to local buildings. The heat is used for space heat, hot water, and, in some cases, cooling.

Benefits of a neighbourhood renewable energy system

Neighbourhood renewable energy systems:

  • Are efficient as they eliminate the need for each individual building to have its own boiler, hot water heating, and in some cases cooling equipment
  • Are compatible with a wide variety of renewable energy sources
  • Are easy to update to the cleanest energy source available
  • Make use of renewable energy sources that are not cost-effective for an individual building to use
  • Provide the lowest-cost solution with utility rates that can be cheaper than conventional heating systems in high-density developments

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Waste from renewable resources

You can create energy from waste, such as wood, food scraps, and sewage. 

Some examples of technologies that produce energy from waste, include:

  • Anaerobic digesters, which produce biomethane from food scraps
  • Clean wood combustion systems, which  produce heat
  • Liquid waste, which produce biomethane from sewage 

The future of waste as a renewable resource

Non-renewable materials and waste streams will continue to be actively managed for the most responsible outcomes, but they will not be considered  for the long-term. We will, however, continue to explore sewage heat opportunities and work with Metro Vancouver to use the biomethane produced by the region’s wastewater treatment facilities.