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Whistler switching from propane to natural gas

Audit of appliances this summer is key to smooth conversion next year



By Claire Piech

Whistler residents take note: If you have propane appliances, you will need to get them retrofitted to natural gas by the fall of next year.

Whistler will soon no longer be powered by propane. Terasen Gas Whistler Inc. plans to convert the entire municipality to natural gas by November 2008, when a $35 million natural gas pipeline from Squamish to Whistler will be operational.

“It is really important that we get in touch with every single user,” said Carol Greaves, community relations manager for Terasen Gas.

According to Greaves, propane appliances will not work after the conversion, since the propane supply will be completely shut off.

The switch is being done because Whistler’s current 20-year-old propane system is nearing capacity. In fact, with 2,350 customers, the municipality’s propane system is the largest of its kind in the country and one of the largest in North America.

“We’ve been planning this conversion for many years,” said Greaves.

The $5.3-million conversion project is also expected to cut greenhouse emissions by 15 per cent.

Terasen Gas will begin conducting audits of all propane appliances in Whistler this summer.

“We will be looking at furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, hot tubs, clothes dryers, boilers, that type of thing,” said Greaves.

Greaves added that homeowners in Whistler need to make sure Terasen Gas knows exactly what propane appliances they need to have changed.

“Terasen Gas will cover all costs associated with converting appliances to natural gas from propane, provided the equipment is in good working order and the company can source the parts,” she said.

Greaves added, however, that the company will not be covering costs after the process is complete.

Terasen Gas will begin implementing the switch to propane around August next year. At this time, the company will divide Whistler into approximately 60 sections and convert one section per day.

On conversion days, homeowners can expect their gas to be shut off from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. A gas contractor will check the home gas meter and replace it if necessary, and a licensed gasfitter will retrofit any propane appliances to use natural gas. After this conversion is complete, all retrofitted appliances should work normally.

One concern raised in the community is that homeowners who do not provide access to their propane appliances on the day their section is being converted by Terasen Gas will be passed by. This is especially of concern because Whistler has a large number of absentee homeowners.

“We’re meeting with lots of property managers, and trying to get the word out a year in advance to address this,” said Greaves.

“We also are going to communicate to homeowners through billing to try and reach as many people as possible,” she said.

Terasen Gas is currently raising awareness in Whistler by meeting with various interest groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and the Rotary Club of Whistler.

Detailed conversion schedules will also be made available to the public around August 2008 via newspaper ads and radio announcements.

Greaves said construction of the pipeline from Squamish, alongside the Sea to Sky Highway, is on schedule and expected to be complete by the fall of this year.

During the construction, lanes along the highway between Whistler and Squamish may be periodically closed. However, the company will try to minimize any traffic delays by ensuring one highway lane in each direction is always kept open.

Lane closures will also be coordinated with the Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project’s schedule.

For more information on the energy conversion process, call the Convert Alert phone line at 1-877-380-5763.

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