In the US, dozens of cities have banned the connection of new buildings to the natural gas grid. This environmental wind blowing south of the border is being emulated in Quebec, where many communities are considering this option, according to information from The duty.
“It looks like it’s going to snowball,” says Emmanuel Cosgrove, director of Ecohabitation. The organization has just completed “several” studies for Quebec communities — “both large and small” — planning to ban natural gas in new homes on their territory.
“A lot of people are contacting us,” confirms Jean-Pierre Finet, analyst at the Regrouping of Environmental Organizations in Energy (ROEE). “Dozens” of elected officials, advisers and officials are asking him how to prepare an ordinance banning gas in new buildings.
The two specialists cannot reveal which municipalities are among their clients; professional secrecy applies. But they assure that official announcements will be made very soon.
Last December, the City of New York mimicked those of San Francisco, Seattle and Berkeley, among others, by banning the use of natural gas in most new buildings on its territory.
Last Friday, it was Washington state that changed its regulations to mandate electric heaters – effectively banning natural gas – in new apartment and commercial buildings. A similar rule for single-family homes is expected to be considered in that state later this year.
The movement is also coming to Canada. Vancouver, which declared a “climate emergency” two years ago, has required that heaters in new homes on its territory be “zero emissions” since early 2022. Therefore, get off the gas.
To date, no municipality in Québec has issued such an ordinance.
In Quebec, 9% of Énergir’s new builds are powered by natural gas. On average, every household that heats with natural gas uses 5,000 cubic meters per year and releases 9.5 tons of CO in the process2 in the air.
An energy committee will be formed at the Association of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ) in the coming weeks, which is expected to deal with the question of the ban on natural gas in new buildings, explains its President Daniel Côté.
“All in all, we have to switch to renewable energies as much as possible,” he demands. Natural gas, while considered by some to be cleaner than coal or oil, the fact remains that it is an energy that is non-renewable. »
According to studies carried out by Ecohabitation on behalf of several municipalities, citizens and real estate developers do not want access to natural gas. Not least because compatible devices are expensive, but also because of air conditioning requirements. “The famous Life in Blue, it doesn’t resonate too much anymore,” explains Mr. Cosgrove.
Even if public opinion were willing to support a ban on natural gas in new construction, Mr Cosgrove notes that “elected officials are wary”. They particularly fear being within the scope of a lawsuit from Énergir if they forbid it from expanding its network at home, he said.
Should a municipality ever ban connections to natural gas, Énergir could effectively retaliate by trying to enforce its contract as an “exclusive gas distributor” in Quebec, Jean-Pierre Finet explains. The company can also invoke its “service obligation” under the Régie de l’énergie law, he adds.
Interviewed by The dutyA spokeswoman for Énergir, Élaine Arsenault, replied in an email: “If regulations should be put in place, we think they should mandate the use of renewable energy in new buildings, rather than banning any type of equipment that can also do carbon-free.” Energy that supplements electricity, such as B.GNR [gaz naturel renouvelable] “.
According to experts, other forms of regulation would make it possible to circumvent the formal ban on natural gas in new buildings, but achieve the same effect.
A municipality in the Metropolitan Community of Montreal (CMM), in particular, could use the Atmospheric Emissions Regulation to tightly limit particulates and CO2 released by equipping a new building. “This could mean that natural gas is de facto no longer eligible,” observes Mr. Finet.
A nationwide regulation is also conceivable, as the example of heating oil shows. As of December 31, the Quebec government banned the installation of oil-fired heating in new homes.
However, natural gas is still in the favor of Quebec authorities. Last summer, Énergir and Hydro-Québec signed an agreement to focus on dual-energy electricity/natural gas systems to meet peak energy demand. This agreement had been the subject of heavy criticism from environmental groups and certain energy experts.
To defend against a possible gas supply ban, Énergir points out that the dual energy electricity/GNR is a “fully renewable option that can be deployed in 2022 at a competitive price”. Note that in 2020 GNR accounted for only 0.1% of the volume in Énergir’s network, which is targeting a 10% share in 2030.