Fortis Energy - Okanagan Capacity Upgrade Project
Fortis is planning to increase capacity in the Okanagan by adding approximately 30 kilometres of new gas line.
This is an extension of an existing natural gas system along Penticton’s eastern border, to extend from Ellis Creek north beyond Chute Lake. The project was submitted to the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) in 2020 and a decision is anticipated in 2022.
Communities in the Okanagan are expected to grow 40 per cent in the next two decades. The Okanagan Capacity Upgrade project will serve existing customers and allow Fortis to expand natural gas service to additional new subdivisions and residential areas in the future.
First Things First Okanagan is seeking intervener status to comment on the project
We feel that expanding the capacity of natural gas in the Okanagan runs counter to the explicit goals of the City of Penticton, City of Kelowna, and Regional District Community Climate Action Plans.
Residential and commercial buildings are the second biggest source of GHG emissions accounting for 30% of Penticton’s emissions and 23% of CO2 emissions for the region. The City of Penticton’s climate goal is to reduce emissions below 2007 levels by at least 40% by 2030, 65% by 2040, and 100% by 2050, creating energy efficient buildings powered, heated and cooled with 100% renewable energy. Building new natural gas infrastructure runs counter to these climate targets.
The Capacity Upgrade Project will make it difficult to meet emission reduction targets.
Our provincial CleanBC plan advocates a Net Zero energy future with little or no dependence on fossil fuels for home energy use.
Since space and water heating represent about 85 per cent of residential greenhouse gas emissions and 68 per cent of commercial emissions, many jurisdictions in North America and Europe are restricting or banning fossil fuel-based heating in new home construction and replacing fossil fuel burning with electric heating to meet these targets. Electrification of heating is considered a necessary part of the transition to net zero in Canada's building sector. Allowing increased fossil fuel infrastructure will make it more difficult to reduce the region’s reliance on fossil fuel energy.
The Capacity Upgrade Project would continue the use of methane, whereas Canada and B.C. have pledged to cut methane emissions.
During the 2021 UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Canada and more than 80 other countries signed a Global Methane Pledge to cut emissions of methane by at least 30 per cent below 2020 levels by 2030. Fugitive emissions from the natural gas industry’s production, distribution, storage as well as leaks and incomplete combustion in stoves and furnaces, are a significant source of methane emissions.
As well, natural gas appliances have been implicated in exposing people to respiratory disease-triggering pollutants that lower indoor air quality.
Projections for regional growth do not require the growth of natural gas infrastructure when the supply of non-emitting energy is already available for home heating.
Since natural gas is the source of approximately 92% of building emissions (City of Penticton Climate Action Plan. p. 21), restricting its use in new buildings is an important strategy to lower community emissions.
Expanding the capacity of natural gas in the south Okanagan runs counter to the explicit goals of the City of Penticton and RDOS Community Climate Action Plans. The Fortis project would dampen demand for electrical energy retrofits to install appliances proven to lower household emissions.
Since furnaces and gas appliances are built to last twenty years or more, installing new fossil fuel home heating infrastructure will deter homeowners from switching to emissions-free options that would help meet climate emission targets.
The project is not needed, cannot ensure that GHG emissions will be reduced, and exposes a 30 km environmentally sensitive corridor to potential habitat degradation.
If local government Climate Action Plan retrofit initiatives are implemented to reduce fossil fuel use, the demand for natural gas may not rise and may even shrink in the long term.
BCUC seeks to ensure that BC residents have access to safe, reliable energy. We believe that by increasing fossil fuel demand and energy infrastructure our province’s outlook for a safe and secure future is diminished.