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Energy utopia: Vancouver's neighbourhood energy strategy

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This study explores the barriers faced by the City of Vancouver in implementing its Neighbourhood Energy Strategy (2012). Through a case study of the Creative Energy Central Heat district energy system, I explore the challenges the City of Vancouver had in operationalizing this policy. The conceptual framework for this study utilizes the concepts of energy justice, remunicipalization and path dependency. These concepts facilitate an exploration of the intricacies and multiplicities of the challenges faced by the City of Vancouver, chiefly the provincial regulatory process with the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC). With the assistance of the conceptual framework, I find that the BCUC’s stated mission of providing equal access to safe, economical and sustainable energy was in conflict with the City of Vancouver’s proposed agreement with Creative Energy. I also find that ownership was a significant factor in the challenges faced by the City, as Creative Energy’s private ownership subjected the agreement between the City of Vancouver and Creative Energy to the Provincial regulation. Finally, I find that resistance to new technology and methods challenged the agreement, as evidenced by statements provided by interveners in the regulatory process. These findings provide insights about the enactment of district energy policy for other municipalities seeking to enable GHG reductions through the provision for new district energy systems or through fuel switches of existing district energy systems.
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