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Op-Ed: Oakville climate action to include new gas furnaces?

Hart Jansson expresses his concern about the town recommending the installation of new gas furnaces.
Heat pump | Hart Jansson
Heat pump | Hart Jansson

As a public participant, I was quite shocked to discover at the Oakville Energy Task Force meeting on Sept. 13th, that a feasibility study commissioned by the Town and Oakville Enterprises Corporation will be recommending installation of new gas furnaces in 2030 and beyond.

The feasibility study recommends moving forward with business planning for an 'entity' that will be responsible for residential energy retrofits in Oakville; part of the recommendation is to base the business plan on substantial installations of new gas furnaces, but doesn't meet the Community Energy Strategy (CES) goal of 50% emissions reduction by 2041 (the projection is a 38% reduction).

Gas furnaces are the major source of greenhouse gas emissions from residences. The average residence emits 4 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. Replacement of a gas furnace with a heat-pump or the addition of a hybrid heat-pump can reduce these emissions by 50% to 70% and can also save the homeowner money (see Heat Pump Calculator for details). Other cities and regions like Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston and Durham have low-interest loans and other incentives, in addition to the federal ‘Greener Homes Program’, to encourage the installation of heat-pumps.

Given that other cities (Montreal and Vancouver, for example) and entire countries (the UK, Germany etc) have legislated the phase-out of oil or natural gas-based air and water heating by 2025 or earlier, it baffles me that Oakville, a supposed leader in climate change mitigation, is considering this option which would perpetuate the use of fossil fuels beyond 2040. Also of note: we know that fossil fuel usage increases the number of heart attacks and strokes - it has now been scientifically proven by the Frances Crick Institute that fossil fuels cause lung cancer - a link to the study is here.

On behalf of Halton Action for Climate Emergency Now (HACEN), I will be asking Council not to endorse the recommendations from the Residential Energy Retrofit Feasibility Study - we must go back to the drawing board to fix this plan. There is a Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20 where these recommendations will be consideredIf you agree that this is a bad plan for the health of our community and for the climate crisis, please email or call your Councillor before 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

HACEN is also recommending that the Town should set more ambitious emission reduction targets to match the recent updates in targets set by the Canadian and the US and other governments. And that Future Energy Oakville, a new community-based non-profit which is overseeing climate action initiatives, should interact with the public and be more transparent in its actions, especially now that Enbridge owns 10% of Oakville Hydro and related companies. See more background and additional recommendations to Council from HACEN at . 

I am hopeful that Oakville Council will show the insight and leadership required to get our community-based Climate Action program back on the right track.