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6. Resilient Energy and Zero-Waste Systems

Vision for 2050

Surrey's energy systems are free of carbon pollution. Most uses rely on electricity, while renewable fuels are prioritized for the most difficult to decarbonize uses. Goods and materials are produced and reused in a circular manner that avoids waste and generates value for the community

Today, 98% of British Columbia's electrical power is generated from renewable sources. This means that when a Surrey resident, building- or business-owner replaces a natural gas furnace or hot water tank with an electric heat pump, or swaps out a gasoline vehicle for an electric vehicle, they immediately make a big dent in their carbon footprint.

On a smaller scale, the City generates some energy locally. The municipally owned Surrey City Energy utility operates a district energy system that heats homes, businesses and institutions throughout Surrey City Centre. A planned new renewable energy centre will harvest waste heat from sewers. When that plant is operational in 2026, it will supply up to 80% of the energy needed for buildings connected to the rapidly growing system. The first phase of this project will reduce over 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually with further reductions to come from future phases.

The City also owns and operates the Surrey Biofuel Facility, North America’s first closed-loop organic waste system. The facility turns organic waste such as food scraps and yard trimmings into renewable natural gas (RNG) for use in City waste-hauling vehicles. RNG is gaseous biofuel that is mostly composed of methane. It is produced primarily from anaerobic digestion of organic material and can be substituted directly in natural gas burning equipment as a renewable, low-carbon alternative to fossil natural gas. Through this process, more than 3,500 tonnes of GHG emissions from waste-hauling vehicles is being eliminated from the City's corporate emissions inventory each year, equivalent to taking 754 gasoline-powered cars off the road.

Currently about 70% of the solid waste the City collects from residences is diverted from the landfill through recycling and processing organic materials in the biofuel facility. Surrey’s commitment to sustainability goes further by moving toward a “circular economy” approach that avoids waste in the first place by redesigning, repairing, and repurposing products and materials, in line with the region’s zero-waste programs.

Meeting the City’s climate targets, as well as those of senior governments, will require large-scale changes in our energy systems to transition away from fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to 100% clean, renewable, and resilient energy. A strategic and integrated approach to planning this transition will rely on ongoing engagement with both the electric and gas utilities that provide most of the energy used across the province.

Prioritizing electrification for most energy needs, including buildings and passenger vehicles, is likely to be the main pathway to achieving Surrey’s targets. This approach is well aligned with international, national, and regional studies and modeling. The provincial government has committed to increase the proportion of renewable energy in the electrical system from 98% today to 100% by 2030. According to BC Hydro’s 2021 Integrated Resource Plan and 2020 Electrification Plan, the electrical utility expects to meet the increased demand for clean and renewable electricity over the next couple of decades through a combination of energy efficiency programs to reduce demand and adding new energy supply sources such as solar and wind.

The City will work closely with BC Hydro to plan for distribution systems to meet the anticipated demand for Surrey’s rapid growth, and will advocate to the Province for electrical rates and pricing systems that are competitive with fossil fuel options.

While grid electricity is expected to be the mainstay for Surrey’s energy needs, some energy uses are more difficult to electrify. For example, certain buildings, large equipment and industrial processes face unique challenges that may not be addressed through electrification. In these cases, other forms of renewable energy such as hydrogen, Renewable Natural Gas and other forms of biofuels can play an important role. However, these are still emerging technologies that require careful consideration to prioritize limited supplies for the most appropriate uses, minimize negative side-effects, and ensure verifiable low-carbon outcomes. Finally, district energy systems like Surrey City Energy and on-site energy production such as solar and geo-exchange can also play a growing role to increase energy self-sufficiency and resilience.

The shifts and actions in this section set the foundation for the overall energy transition to significantly reduce greenhouse gases by relying primarily on clean electricity. Electrification protects health by reducing indoor and outdoor air pollution. Equity considerations for energy systems are complex and require holistic solutions. For example, electrifying older buildings with inefficient heaters and quick fixes could impose higher heating costs on already vulnerable residents, exacerbating energy poverty. But done right, a whole-building approach could save money and create more comfortable and healthier homes. This will require senior government funding and support.

  • Surrey City Energy greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity (kg CO2 e/MWh)
  • GHG emissions from City-collected solid waste (tCO2 e/y)