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Whistler weighs energy options

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Community Energy Plan to improve efficiency, air quality

If Whistler continues on the same course, by 2020, our combined energy consumption will have increased by 28 per cent. Our energy expenditures will increase from about $47,669,000 annually to $577 million, while our greenhouse gas emissions will increase by approximately 44 per cent.

As Whistler begins to work towards environmental stability, the municipality is looking at ways to either stabilize or decrease energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for the future. Energy reduction and efficiency will reduce costs and improve air quality. It’s also consistent with the Whistler 2002 Vision document, and the Whistler Environmental Strategy, and there is synergy with other plans, like the Whistler Comprehensive Transportation Strategy.

The municipality hired Sheltair Group Resource Consultants Inc., a Vancouver-based consulting company that specializes in this kind of problem, to study the issue and make recommendations for Whistler’s Community Energy Plan.

On Oct. 15, Innes Hood, a senior associate and project manager for Sheltair, presented the first part of the plan – an energy audit – to Whistler council. The recommendations for reducing energy use and emissions will be released once they have been looked over by council and accepted.

According to the audit, which was compiled using 2000 figures, commercial operations are the largest consumer of energy in Whistler, which includes ski operations, hotels, stores and restaurants. Commercial users accounted for 38 per cent of all energy consumption by kilojoule, worth an estimated $14,381,000, or 30 per cent of all expenditures.

Passenger Vehicle Transportation is second on the list at 31 per cent, and represented almost $20 million, or 42 per cent, of annual energy expenditures.

Residential consumers accounted for 27 per cent of energy use and $12.3 million in annual expenditures, which represents about 26 per cent of total energy costs.

Municipal and institutional energy use accounted for three per cent of energy consumed, and just over $1 million in expenditures.

The industrial sector burned less than one per cent of energy, representing about $75,000 in expenses.

When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, personal vehicles are the largest offender, spewing more than 62,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, or 40 per cent of Whistler’s total. Commercial energy consumers contributed 30 per cent, residential consumers added 12 per cent, the municipality and institutional consumers chipped in another nine per cent for a total of 129,022 metric tonnes.

That works out to approximately five tonnes per person, per year, which is on par with Colorado’s numbers in 1997. In Banff in 1999, the average was over 10 tonnes per person, largely due to the colder climate and Alberta’s dependence on coal and gas power. The B.C. average in 1997 was about 14 tonnes per person, but that number includes industrial emissions.

While emissions are poised to increase by 44 per cent in the next 20 years – assuming that Whistler reaches build-out in 2003 and population trends remain steady – even a slight reduction could make a dramatic difference. As things currently stand, there is a three per cent turnover for existing building stock, and commercial transportation energy expenditures are increasing by 1.5 per cent per year.

If Whistler makes even a few slight improvements, such as switching from propane to natural gas, implementing the Comprehensive Transportation Plan, diverting 50 per cent of solid waste by 2010 and 70 per cent by 2020, and increasing municipal fleet efficiency by four per cent annually, the projected numbers will be much lower.

Energy use may only increase by 13 per cent. Costs would still be in the $533 million range, but greenhouse gases would only increase by 11 per cent.

The Sheltair study was presented for public comment on Oct. 25 at the first discussion in the Leadership through Sustainable Innovation speaker series. After another round of weighing recommendations, it will be presented to council to adopt or modify.

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