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Neighbourhood Energy Strategy

Neighbourhood energy utilities at night

Developing neighbourhood energy systems is a key strategy to meeting the City's Greenest City 2020 goals to:

  • Reduce carbon emissions
  • Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels
  • Keep energy affordable in the long term

Neighbourhood energy systems use low-carbon renewable energy sources, such as sewage waste heat.

The end result will be environmentally friendly, cost-competitive heat and hot water in high-density neighbourhoods.

Related initiatives

Recent developments

City proposes new energy recovery centre

December 3, 2013 – The City of Vancouver submitted a proposal to Metro Vancouver to provide a site for a potential new non-incineration resource and energy recovery centre.

Public engagement

February 2011 – The City of Vancouver started to gather input for a strategic approach to neighbourhood energy, and energy centre guidelines. Consultations included Vancouver Coastal Health, Metro Vancouver, property developers, the David Suzuki Foundation, BC Hydro, and the University of British Columbia.

False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility opens

2010 – The False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility (NEU) began operation, providing environmentally friendly heat and hot water for new buildings in Southeast False Creek, including the Olympic Village.

Neighbourhood energy centre guidelines

The guidelines:

  • Outline the City's expectations and set standards for new energy centres
  • Guide the City's evaluation and approval of energy centre projects
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities of the City and other regulatory authorities

Environmental standards

To be considered, energy centres must be capable of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50% or more compared to traditional heating sources.

Neighbourhood energy utility systems must adapt to a wide variety of renewable waste energy options.

Regardless of fuel source, energy centres must not compromise air quality.

Fuel sources

Waste from sewage systems is the preferred energy source for energy centres.

When energy centres supply approximately 70% of the annual energy demand for heat, their sewage heat recovery systems must eliminate over 60% of carbon emissions.

If waste wood is used as fuel, it must be clean waste wood. Suppliers must confirm their sources do not contribute to environmentally unsustainable practices.

Target areas

The strategy targets areas with:

  • Existing steam heat plants
  • High-density development potential 
  • Existing buildings that could connect to neighbourhood energy centres

Target areas include Downtown, Central Broadway, and the Cambie Corridor. Energy centres must look and function as part of the community, particularly in regard to noise, odour, and traffic impacts.

Communities will be part of the planning process, and have access to information about ongoing operations for energy centres in their area.


The City will continue to work with property developers on issues, including:

  • Incremental costs of hydronic equipment
  • Energy centre connection standards
  • Building-scale carbon reduction opportunities

Neighbourhood energy centre benefits

There are many benefits to energy centres in addition to the environmental benefits.

Economic benefits

A neighbourhood energy utility is self-funded, and will provide a return on investment to taxpayers and competitive rates to customers.

Energy centres help building developers meet energy-efficiency and green-building requirements, and are more cost effective than other green energy options, such as GeoExchange.

Social benefits

Energy centres provide customers with a higher level of comfort with less energy, compared to conventional space-heating options.

A neighbourhood energy utility system eliminates heat production equipment from individual buildings, creating more space for green roofs and reducing maintenance for building owners.

Why thermal energy?

55% of Vancouver’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions comes from the energy used by buildings. To address this, an important strategy of the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan is to pursue low-carbon energy centres for high-density, mixed-use neighbourhoods.

The Greenest City 2020 Action Plan seeks to reduce city-wide GHG emissions by 33%, or 1,110,000 tonnes CO2 per year by 2020.  Neighbourhood energy is targeted to deliver 11% of this reduction (120,000 tonnes CO2 per year).

The City is pursuing neighbourhood energy centres as a key strategy to meet our Greenest City goals of protecting the environment and keeping energy affordable.

What is a neighbourhood energy centre?

Neighbourhood energy centres use waste heat and other low-carbon, renewable energy sources to provide heat and hot water for high-density, mixed-use neighbourhoods. Energy centres can serve both new developments and existing gas-heated buildings. 

Heat and hot water are provided at cost-competitive rates with fewer GHG emissions, compared to traditional utilities. From January to June 2012, the False Creek Energy Centre reduced GHG emissions from heating buildings and water by 76%, compared with traditional heat sources.

Global movement towards energy centres

Internationally, Sweden and Seattle have developed neighbourhood energy centres. Seattle successfully converted its downtown steam system to a woodchip/biomass system in 2009, and has reduced the system's GHG emissions by 50%.

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Last modified: Mon, 22 Jun 2015 16:47:21

Proposed South Vancouver zero-waste energy centreSoutheast False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility