This story will interest you if you like to be warm; if you like to save money; if you watch our municipal politics with interest; or if you think we might have a climate crisis on our hands.
In the past two weeks, a team of well-informed, climate-concerned citizens have worked hard, at no cost to the County to provide a climatically and economically compelling heat pump price estimate for retrofitting the heating systems of three social housing buildings totalling 51 units in Smiths Falls, Perth, and Almonte. The Almonte 16-unit building is pictured below.
County Council and staff and many of the public are aware of three unsuccessful Requests-For-Proposals in the past 2 years based on using natural gas boilers. An interesting alternative emerging now installs an estimated 57 mini split heat pumps across the three sites.
This alternative has received the support in just the past few days of over 1000 citizens who have signed a petition ( https://chng.it/RKL46X8X ) urging Council to do the responsible thing – responsible to our planet, and to future generations. The signatories are among the many citizens in Lanark County who are attuned to the ever-escalating climate crisis, and to the urgency for humanity to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels – the unabated burning of which is causing massive environmental damage, massive disruption to ways of life, trillions of dollars in negative economic impact, escalating food, water, and human security impacts, and an ever-rising number of climate refugees.
Indeed, just two days ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest state-of-the-climate report, which is being called “a ‘final warning’ on the climate crisis, as rising greenhouse gas emissions push the world to the brink of irrevocable damage that only swift and drastic action can avert.” Responding to that report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said: “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, everybody all at once.”
The motion in favour of gas heating is against the spirit and intent of the County’s climate action plan, which includes the very modest target of a 20% reduction in Corporate emissions over 2019-2030, a commitment to eliminate fossil fuels, and a commitment to employ the climate lens to aid decision-making.
The motion is also against the spirit and intent of the County’s participation in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Partners in Climate Protection (PCP) program, in which the County is engaged. The FCM has recently called on PCP program partners to update their milestones to align with IPCC’s science-based targets of a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030, and net-zero by 2050.
With such a decision point before us, the County has a golden opportunity to set an example of climate-friendly action and to be seen by Lanark citizens to be setting an example.
Beyond the climate imperative and based on the analysis done to date, installing mini split heat pumps would cost approximately $17,000 per apartment unit, compared to approximately $30,000 per unit with the gas boiler option: this would amount to a total savings to the taxpayer of about $500,000, compared to the gas boiler option.
In addition, significant operational savings can be anticipated when lifecycle costing is factored. This includes from less electricity demand than from the existing baseboard heaters; less electricity demand than from existing window-fitting air conditioners which would no longer be needed; and avoiding the inexorable rise in carbon pollution pricing, including the federal carbon tax which is on track to reach $170 per tonne by 2030. Local contracting capacity for supplying and installing heat pumps has also been identified.
As Smiths Falls Mayor Pankow has written in an email to Council: “…we must understand that the objective of the carbon tax is to discourage investment in systems that rely on fossil fuels and encourage investments in systems utilizing much more climate-friendly electricity.”
In a meeting this Wednesday Mar 22nd at 5:00 pm in Perth, the County Council, including our Christa Lowry and our Ricky Minnille will make a choice to pause or not pause acceptance of a $1.386 million bid to install a natural gas system in favour directing staff to report back on April 5th with a comprehensive technical, climatic, and economic lifecycle assessment of the mini split heat pump alternative with particular attention to the steps and timing involved to complete work at the Smiths Falls site before the onset of winter.
Scott Hortop (the leaf composting guy)
Chair, Climate Network Lanark