Fueling up in Surrey: gas stations going green

Fueling up in Surrey: gas stations going green

By Anderson Kehbila

September 23, 2011

The realization that renewable energy technologies (RETs) and energy efficiency measures (EEMs) play a critical role in combating global climate change is not recent, but the awareness of their importance has made its way into mainstream just over the past decade. Still, a decade seems to be ample time for these technologies to be well integrated into our built environment.

Particularly with regards to inadequate regulatory frameworks and the perceived risks of investments in RETs and EEMs, the global track record of success in such an integration has been mixed.

There is, however, ample evidence that when done right, RETs and EEMs possess the triple benefits of energy costs savings, carbon emissions reductions and improvement of the financial bottom line.  To take advantage of these benefits, a range of jurisdictions have proposed an array of policy instruments to boost the uptake of RETs and EEMs around the globe.

In Canada these energy shifts, with a dual objective of stimulating the economy and curbing domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, have been highlighted in the literature. An interesting example of such a shift to RETs and EEMs is the City of Surrey’s ambitious energy policy: The ENERGYShift.

Carbon Talks recently hosted a brown bag lunch dialogue with the city of Surrey’s sustainability manager, Peter Russell, who provided insights into the city’s future energy plan.

The plan is based on three pillars:

  • community action,
  • corporate operations,
  • and clean energy business

To accomplish that, the city announced a major policy on green fleets and alternative fuels aimed at facilitating the transition to low carbon transportation, enhancing consumer confidence in purchasing alternative fuel vehicles, and promoting investment and the commercialization of clean technologies.

City of Surrey Energy Shift

City of Surrey’s Energy Policy: The EnergyShift Plan

This proposed energy policy supports the uptake of alternative fuel vehicles such as plug in electric vehicles including hybrids, compressed natural gas vehicles, propane and liquefied natural gas vehicles within 2-5 years. In addition, the policy supports the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles powered by nitrogen gas, industrial effluents and other renewable feedstock in the next 5-10 years.

“Accounting for stakeholders’ interests, concerns and knowledge are core components of a collaborative process that enables stakeholders such as energy providers, the automobile industry, service stations, and alternative fuel producers, marketers and equipment manufacturers to jointly shape the outputs necessary for effective decision-making,”said Russell during his presentation at the brown bag dialogue.

“Working collaboratively with engineers, advisory committees and green community groups in other regions in B.C. highlights the importance of an energy transformation in B.C. and Surrey in particular,” Russell added.

With over 91 service stations currently operating in Surrey and 28-zoned sites without gas stations, the city anticipates a total of 1-2 new alternative fuel service stations per year with a possibility of hydrogen fuelling and a viable electric vehicle infrastructure in the short term.

Accomplishing that goal will entail zoning and rezoning bylaws that stipulate refueling stations infrastructure requirements, said Russell. Besides, mandating a certain level of charging requirements for electric vehicles at existing gas stations, home, work, in parking lots and on streets where cars are normally parked is critical in facilitating this transition, Russell added.

The city’s commitment to purchase biodiesel for its fleet, working with developers to blend the different fuel types as well as providing financial incentives/subsidies to boost the uptake of alternative fuel vehicles are glaring examples of other initiatives to facilitate this transition, Russel commented.

As Datschefski, an eco-designer, rightly puts it,

"when activity equals damage, don’t try to reduce environmental impact by trying to reduce the amount of activity, rather change activities so that they are biocompatible and cause no damage.”

This quote is indeed consistent with the city’s contention that engaging the community, businesses, city council and other stakeholders to devise strategies to reduce energy use and GHG emissions in key sectors across the community is critical in meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

(Icon photo courtesy of futureatlas, Flickr)

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