Half of Quebec’s municipalities want to ban fossil fuel heating for some buildings 

Around half of Quebec’s municipalities are on track to ban the use of fossil fuels for heating in newly constructed buildings under three storeys by 2025. Larger buildings will remain permitted to use renewable natural gas. 

The council of the Metropolitan Community of Montreal announced that it passed a resolution to prohibit the installation of space and water heating powered by fossil fuels in residential, commercial and institutional buildings last month.

Representing 82 municipalities, the council sent the draft regulations to Quebec’s environment ministry for approval, hoping to have it effective by January.

President of the council and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said that behind transport, “it is the building sector which tops the list.”

Fossil fuel-based heating systems account for 13% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions; that figure increases to 18% when including electricity used for appliances, lighting and cooking.  

Montreal announced a ban on natural gas in new buildings of up to three storeys as of October 2024, and plans to ban it in larger new builds as well.

The council projects the ban will lead to a reduction of 500,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emission by 2035.  

However, Heather Exner-Pirot with the MacDonald-Laurier Institute thinks that Quebec is in for a big surprise when it comes to maintaining the province’s power supply.

“Quebec is on track to face major shortfalls in power supply in the coming years,” Exner-Pirota, MLI’s senior fellow and director of natural resources, energy and environment told True North. 

“Hydro-Québec’s most recent strategic plan determined “unequivocally” that its current capacity is not enough to meet growing demand. Forcing homeowners to rely only on electricity for heating in such a cold climate is dangerous.”

Nanaimo, B.C. announced similar plans last summer, barring new buildings from using natural gas as a primary heating source as of this July. 

Vancouver was on track to do the same with a proposed ban on natural gas stoves and fireplaces until its city council rejected the motion to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings last May.

Statistics Canada reported about two-thirds of the households in Quebec use either electric baseboard heaters or electric radiant heating last year, whereas only half of the homes in B.C. rely on natural gas for heat.

However, the brutally cold winters of Montreal when compared to Vancoucer present a different set of hurdles.

“One of the major advantages of heating fuels is they can be stored and then discharged to meet surges in demand on very cold days,” said Exner-Pirota. 

“Electricity by contrast must be produced and used as soon as it is produced. There is no reason to think the grid can absorb much higher levels of demand. There is no reason to think this will end well.”

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