Matthew Carroll, co-executive director of the West Kootenay EcoSociety, asked Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer questions following her keynote address at the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Conference last Thursday. (Chelsea Novak/Castlegar News)

Keynote at renewable energy conference stresses energy efficiency

The key to achieving 100 per cent renewable energy is better building envelopes.

The key to achieving 100 per cent renewable energy is not more solar panels, but better building envelopes, according to Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer, who gave the keynote speech at a renewable energy conference held in Castlegar last week.

The West Kootenay EcoSociety hosted the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Conference from Sept. 7 to 9, and Reimer gave the keynote speech last Thursday, sharing what the City of Vancouver has learned in working towards its goal of being the Greenest City by 2020 and to convert to 100 renewable energy before 2050.

“I say renewable energy, into your head pops these sexy pictures of windmills and solar panels. The reality of renewable energy however is a little less sexy to look at, but if you pay the energy bills in your house, and I do, I find it rather exciting,” said Reimer. “The first and best new fuel that you need to go for, if you’re going renewable energy, is energy efficiency.”

She said that while the technical capacity exists to change our energy over to renewable, it would be very difficult to replace kilajoule for kilajoule.

“So what will be sexy is not the solar panels on top of the building, but actually the envelope of the building, and that’s going to matter a heck of a lot more than windmills,” said Reimer. “We can have arguments over which fuel, but before we have that argument, we should be having an argument over how energy efficient the building that you’re putting that fuel into, or the car, or whatever it is, [is].”

She reiterated the same idea during the question period when one man asked her if Vancouver’s plan to convert to 100 per cent renewable energy meant that the city would depend on the rest of the province building more dams.

“Caulking guns will be way more sexy than solar panels in the Vancouver of the future. We will actually use substantially less energy as a result of the renewable energy plan than we’re using now, even though our population will go up 70 per cent. So no,” she responded.

South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings attended the talk and found it very inspiring.

“Really that message of just deciding you’re going to do something for the good of the city, for the good of the planet, and going ahead and doing it,” he said.

Reimer also addressed the need for leadership.

“If the guy — and it usually is a guy unfortunately, that’s changing slowly but surely in North America — but if the guy who is mayor or the premier or the Prime Minster is not leading — the guy with the capital letters or the woman — you’re not going to see transformative change. The best you can do is incremental change,” she said.

Asked what role he thinks the federal government should play in addressing 100 per cent renewal energy, Cannings said, “Well, obviously I’d like to see some real leadership. Too often these days the federal government I think delegates that leadership down to the provinces, the provinces often delegate it down to municipalities.”

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