Council setting the path for clean energy 

RMOW and Terasen sign Memorandum of Understanding for sustainable energy plan

There was a time not too long ago when Whistler was on the road to supporting a natural gas pipeline from Squamish that would see the community burn more and more fossil fuel over time.

That has all changed.

With a ground swell of support from community members, and an energy company that was willing to listen, there's a new energy plan in the works. And it is revolutionary.

"We have listened to the community and we recognized the community's vision," said John Reid, president and CEO of Terasen Inc., after signing a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding with Whistler's Mayor Hugh O’Reilly. "We are very, very excited about this opportunity."

Whistler is now on the path to a sustainable energy future, where the resort will, over time, become less and less reliant on fossil fuels for energy. Instead, Whistler will use clean, renewable and sustainable energy sources.

One day the resort municipality could even be creating and governing a new energy utility company to oversee this sustainable energy system.

"It's one of the most exciting things we've ever done," said an upbeat Mayor O'Reilly.

The Sustainable Energy Plan will unfold in a number of different areas.

In a presentation o council on Monday night, Dietz Kellman, director of corporate development for Terasen explained the objectives of the plan: reliable, renewable, affordable and community-based.

"We need to develop a solution that transitions where we are today to a sustainable future," said Kellman.

And so, there will still be a pipeline from Squamish. But whereas once it was $43 million and only justified if more and more Whistler customers switched to natural gas, now it's smaller, cheaper and "hydrogen-ready."

"The economics of making the pipeline hydrogen ready are very attractive," said Dietz Kellmann, director of corporate development for Terasen, speaking at Monday's council meeting.

Though the technology isn't available yet, this will create a "flexible platform" for Whistler to move away from burning natural gas, which even though it's cleaner than propane is still a fossil fuel, to hydrogen technology.

The pipeline is smaller because it is based on the principle of diminishing natural gas usage. That's one of the reasons it is now slated to cost $31.8 million, with more savings to be found by cost sharing with telecom companies.

With the new pipeline, Terasen customers using propane will switch to natural gas. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent immediately.

But the pipeline is just one part of the Sustainable Energy Plan.

The village will ultimately move to a district energy system, where the energy supply will come from ground source heat pumps and be transported through pipes to heat village infrastructure.

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