By Ted Battiston
Like many resort communities that rely on winter tourism,
Whistler has a strong interest in mitigating climate change. Further, we’ve all
heard the widespread warnings that climate change is one of the most critical
issues facing society today. Given our desire to keep the mountains covered
with the deep white stuff for five months a year, anything we can do to
decrease Whistler’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) — a major contributor
to climate change — is likely a good thing.
The Whistler2020 Energy Task Force, which is made of up of
concerned and knowledgeable community and energy stakeholders, envisions an
energy system for the year 2020 that
is reliable, flexible and moving toward
our sustainability objectives
. Among other
Whistler’s energy system is maximizing economic opportunities,
transitioning to renewable energy sources
continuously reducing its emissions and wastes into air, land
Yet Whistler has a pretty average track record on this issue
— the chart below shows that our total GHG emissions fell slightly from
the very busy 2001 season, but emissions per population equivalent (which
includes community members and visitors) has become marginally worse since that
So… how exactly are we going to move from today’s situation to
achieve our vision? Well, part of the work of the Whistler2020 task forces is
to help come up with solutions. Among other actions, the energy task force
recommended advancing a proposed ‘Sustainable Energy Plan’ and getting to work
on establishing a local energy utility in association with the development of
the athletes’ village and legacy neighbourhood in the lower Cheakamus.
The municipality was considering a proposal for a high-volume
natural gas pipeline from Squamish to Whistler that was premised on continually
increasing the use of natural gas until the year 2050. The proposal was
rejected based on an assessment of sustainability objectives. A new proposal,
which embraced renewable energy sources, was then developed.
The new proposal still includes a natural gas pipeline to
provide fossil fuel energy as we prepare to transition to renewable sources.
However, the pipeline will be lower volume than originally planned, and
therefore also lower cost, which means we can invest this capital into other
innovative solutions that move toward the vision.
The first phase of the Sustainable Energy Plan involves the
development of an innovative district energy system for the athletes’ village
and associated legacy neighbourhood. This system will draw energy from local,
renewable sources. The primary energy source will be waste heat from the sewage
treatment plant; the secondary source will be a cogeneration system powered by
The district energy system will provide approximately 95 per
cent of the space and water heating for the neighbourhood. It is estimated to
reduce GHG emissions by 60 per cent compared to using standard baseboard
electric heating and by 70 per cent compared to natural gas for space and water
heating. Moreover, the financial feasibility assessments show that the project
as planned is net present value positive — in other words, this project
In terms of your own home, space and water heating typically
represents about 65 per cent of the energy used, totaling approximately $350 in
annual utility bills and roughly 2,500kg of GHG emissions for most of us.
Led by the RMOW’s engineering department, and supported by
Terasen and the development corporation for the athletes’ village, this legacy
neighbourhood project is the first innovative step in the bigger plan of
developing a renewable-energy (ground source heat pump-based) district energy
system for the entire Whistler Village core.
Projects like this represent significant steps in heeding the
climate change warning and putting tangible solutions on the ground —
making smarter decisions for the short and long term.
Many thanks to the all community groups, businesses and
individuals that are helping to make Whistler a sustainable and successful
community, and specific thanks to the Whistler2020 Energy Task Force and the
implementing organizations that are working to make this recommended action a
reality. Thanks also to Ziptrek Ecotours for presenting Al Gore’s documentary
on climate change called “An Inconvenient Truth” at Millennium Place last week.
To KNOW MORE about other actions that are moving our
community toward a more sustainable future visit:
, To suggest a story
idea, get involved with the Whistler2020 task force process, or to suggest
actions for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org