How do we change our energy use?


What is community energy?

Local efforts manage how we use energy and where our energy comes from. Community energy refers to multiple energy sources and distribution networks that are shared between various members of a geographic neighborhood, with at least part of the energy generated in the local area. This means some degree of local involvement in the management and control of the system, with sharing of responsibilities and benefits (including revenue).


Citizen Behaviour - Buildings

Individuals can change their energy behaviors by choosing actions like using more efficient light bulbs and Energy Star appliances in your home, putting on a sweater instead of turning up the heat, switching from natural gas to heat pumps to heat your house, or retrofitting your house to improve its insulation According to BC Hydro, if you turn down your heat by just two degrees, you can reduce your home heating costs by 5%.
Managing energy efficiency can also happen at the community-wide level (collective action). Municipalities can adopt land use and transportation plans and policies that place higher density homes close to services—and support transit, pedestrians and cyclists—to encourage people to drive less. Higher densities also support more efficient and cost-effective community energy solutions, such as a district heating system. With people living closer together, they will share building walls, which greatly reduces the amount of energy needed to heat a home. Local governments can adopt policies and programs to assist homeowners in energy efficient upgrades, such as rebates or on-bill financing for the installation of energy efficient heating and hot water systems and building envelope improvements.
cee-thumbnail cee-thumbnail cee-thumbnail cee-thumbnailHouseholds directly account for 40% of B.C.'s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

Some suggested tools and resources:

Citizen Coolkit
Interactive Home from building retrofits
BC Rebate Programs


Our transportation (cars, trucks, planes etc.) contributes to more than half of the average BC household’s carbon footprint. It also accounts for noxious air pollution, common air contamination, and water toxicity. (Source: David Suzuki Foundation, Four places to cut your carbon, 2014)

Walk or bike more. In 10 minutes = walking 1 km = biking 3.5 km. In the meantime, you can:

  • Keep fit: A125-lb person walking at brisk pace for 30 minutes burns about 150 calories.
  • Save money (gym fees or car expenses)
  • Save time. For short distances ( < 10 km), cycling is usually the fastest way to travel in the city.

Take public transit

  • Read the news, chat with friends, or take a nap! Taking transit is much cheaper than owning a car: the average savings are $586 per month for a family using public transit instead of driving.

Car-share or carpool

  • It’s a great way to bypass traffic congestions (by driving on HOV lane), save expenses and meet new people!

Use Electric Vehicles (EVs).

  • Electric vehicle registrations are surging in B.C., fueled by provincial incentives, improved technology and desirable packaging.

Building Retrofits

Much of the energy can be saved by bringing existing buildings up to new, more efficient standards. Retrofits can be cost-saving, practical, and enhance livability and the sense of comfort in the long term. It’s important that individuals consider energy retrofits in their homes, but scale is critical. The neighbourhood scale to retrofit, including you and your neighbours, have more impact on climate change. Considerations, like costs, practicality, livability, and community support are issues that will need to be addressed in achieving any retrofits.

Basic retrofits include:

  • Add insulation
  • Seal major air leakage issues in chimney bypasses, recessed lighting, HVAC dicts, etc.
  • Fix water leakage
Basement and Utility Room
  • Replace with more efficient model and/or airsource heat-pump
  • Improve insulation on water heater and piping
  • Seal leaks from duct system and dryer venting
Other Rooms and Walls
  • Seal air leaks around outlets, fixtures, doors, windows and fireplace
  • Increase wall insulation (internal or external)
  • Replace lights with LED bulbs
Local example: Eagle Island Community Retrofit Project:
In the District of West Vancouver, a community champion led the neighbourhood through a retrofiting process encouraging every neighbour to undergo a home energy audit, and then follow through with making their homes more energy efficient.
Some suggested tool and resources:
Homes Energy Measure
Blower Door Test
Thermal Imaging

Community Design

Significant energy can be saved by bringing new buildings up to more efficient standards. Basic building designs, such as adding solar hot water can reduce total energy use by up to 30% and greenhouse gases by 33%. Major building designs, such as adding air source heat and other renewable energy sources can reduce total energy use by 75% and greenhouse gases by 80%. With the adoption of the BC Energy Step Code in 2017, the province is committed in constructing buildings that are low-carbon and energy efficient.
Detached buildings:
  • Often one family in a large space
  • Many exposed walls (large surface area)
Attached buildings:
  • More shared walls
  • Multiple families sharing heat
  • Compact surface area
The way a community is designed has major impact on the amount of energy it uses and its carbon footprint.Conserving heat in our communities depends on density, building size, orientation and amount of windows.
Issues to Consider:
Community Support
Local example: City of North Vancouver 100 year Vision
The plan looks at challenges and opportunities for promoting sustainable future development. This long range vision aims to guide the City’s community design toward carbon-netural status by 2107, the City’s 200th anniversary.
Some suggested tool and resources:
Design Centre of Sustainability
British Columbia Energy Step Code