RC105 MarApr2023 - Magazine - Page 12
THE RENEWAL PLAN
Retrofitting Canada’s building stock to achieve emissions targets
by John Tenpenny
HE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA recently released its 2030
Emissions Reduction Plan: Canada’s Next Steps for Clean
Air and a Strong Economy, which lays out the many
actions being taken to combat climate change. It also
outlines what remains to be done to ensure Canada
reaches its emissions-reduction target of 40 to 45 per
cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and the path required for
the country to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
The plan points to the decarbonization of buildings
as being a big piece of the puzzle, particularly since the
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by buildings
have only increased over the last 20 years as the number of
buildings from coast to coast to coast has grown. In 2019,
buildings accounted for 12 per cent of Canada’s direct
GHG emissions (approximately 91 metric tonnes) and, after the off-site generation of electricity for use in buildings
is factored in, that number climbs to about 17 per cent.
More than 85 per cent of building emissions come from
dated fossil fuel space and water heating, and inefficient
Fortunately, much of the technology needed to decarbonize the buildings sector is here today. The switch from
oil, propane, and natural gas to electric heat pumps is a
viable option in many parts of Canada, and energy-efficiency measures such as upgrading the building envelope
with improved insulation, replacing windows and doors,
or air sealing, can minimize demand on the grid and reduce the cost of heating with low-carbon technologies.
During a recent INFRAIntelligence webinar, ReNew
Canada brought together a panel of experts to discuss the
importance of deep carbon retrofits and some of the most
cost-effective ways is to complete retrofits and upgrades as
part of normal building renewal cycles.
ReNew Canada: When it comes to decarbonizing buildings, what
are some of the barriers to implementing carbon retrofits from the
perspective of owners and policy makers?
“People are making investment decisions in a very
complex world, and so it’s not clear to them exactly what
needs to happen and where to go, and even indeed what
the payoffs and the end results are.”
SHANNON GIEBELHAUS I’m in Edmonton, so because our grid
right now is mostly still fossil fuel based, it’s a little bit of
the chicken and the egg scenario. Do we just start making
these retrofits more towards electricity and move that
along and get the signal to our providers that that’s where
we’re headed, or do we wait until the infrastructure is in
place to get those retrofits?
Environment & Climate
Division, City of Toronto
COO, Canadian Operations,
RENEW CANADA – MARCH/APRIL 2023
MIKE WIENINGER One of the other big barriers or challenges is
just the logistics. When it comes to an occupied building,
at what point can you make those important transformational projects happen when you have occupied spaces?
It’s very challenging, and because the best-case scenario is
that it’s empty and that’s the best time to do it in a quick
fashion. But in many cases, you don’t have that opportunity or it’s a massive cost if you were to vacate the entire
KIRK JOHNSON Right now, a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty,
complexity, and ambiguity) situation is happening. People
are comparing 2022 to 2007-08. We have the best of times
in terms of where we are at in terms of political sentiment
and technology advancement and environmental imperatives and economic drivers, but there’s all this chaos that’s
happening around us and we have to be mindful of that.
People are making investment decisions in a very complex
world, and so it’s not clear to them exactly what needs to
happen and where to go, and even indeed what the payoffs and the end results are.
energy advisor, Natural
DEVON STOPPS One of the biggest barriers is you must have
some sort of clean energy source to heat your building
space and water. So, when you’re talking about the potential sources of energy, it all comes back to clean electricity.
First and foremost, we need a grid that is producing clean
electricity to move that to a building that is going to be
Cost is probably the next biggest barrier. Measures such
as electric heat pumps are technically feasible, but they’re
very costly. Even when you’re looking at the lifecycle costs
for a building, they’re still beyond the price of carbon, so it
could be a struggle to implement.