By: Steve Fetterly, P.Eng., SPEC Energy and Transportation Committee
On a Saturday in mid-September, BC Sustainable Energy Association (BCSEA) hosted an annual event with this year’s theme focused on BC’s transition to clean transportation (learn more here). A number of representatives from the public, private and non-profit sectors excitedly came together to share past lessons learned and glimpses into the future with up-and-coming industry technology to support the all-important “greening” of the transportation sector. As a result, the day was full of meaningful conversation, sprouting ideas in pursuit of solutions while leaving an uplifting, optimistic and motivating outlook on how industry is shifting.
This seminar/conference/networking event gathered like-minded speakers, listeners and general participants all eager to learn and discuss ways to support the transition to clean transportation. Bowinn Ma (MLA North Vancouver-Lonsdale & Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink) opened the day by emphasizing how access to major transit corridors from urban developments and affordable housing will continue to provide all residents with smart and sustainable transportation options. From there, the event was broken out into four panels: (i) transportation and land use planning; (ii) barriers to wide-spread electric vehicle adoption; (iii) the future of freight; and (iv) taking pilot projects to becoming industry drivers.1. Transportation and Land Use Planning
This panel was meant to illustrate how municipal planners & policy makers are working with mass transit to reduce emissions. Derrick Cheung (TransLink) highlighted the need to accommodate ridership growth on public transit as 82% of new homes built in Greater Vancouver are in walking distance of transit. Tim Barton (Senior Citywide & Transit Planning Engineer, City of Vancouver) illustrated how integrated city planning can address the challenges resulting from an increasing population while maintaining alignment with city rejections of major roadway upgrades for motor vehicles. As of 2016, 50% of transportation load share was attributed to green options such as cycling, walking and transit. David Oliver (Greenlines Technology) discussed the problems resulting from impediments to implementing innovative transit solutions such as the lack of data sharing in North America due to safeguarding of propriety information across the industry, unlike Finland where open data sharing is now a requirement. David inferred that most people are not aware of all their transportation options since commonly used trip planning Apps default to private car mode without the ability to easily combine different transportation modes.2. Beyond Barriers to Charging
The second panel dealt with electric load management to allow for 100% electric vehicle (EV) ready neighbourhoods and seamless mobility. Anaissa Franca (Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium) explained the issues surrounding the scalability of electric mass transit as limited by infrastructure while pointing out that utilization of hydrogen fuel cells may help alleviate this problem. Neil MacEachern (Environmental Coordinator, City of Port Coquitlam) outlined how cities are requiring that new residential construction easily allow for future EV charger installation for each dwelling unit. Neil also discussed 2 major barriers to EVs and potential solutions: (i) the BC Strata Property Act makes it difficult to install EV chargers in stratified residential buildings. Therefore a “right-to-charge” provision was proposed to be included in the Strata Property Act, however the proposal was denied but an amendment was agreed upon that stratas must accommodate reasonable requests from residents for the purpose of EV charging; and (ii) the BC Utilities Commission Act only allows registered ‘public utility’ companies to sell energy. Although stratas are specifically excluded in this definition, a proposal has been submitted to exempt the reselling of electricity for specific purposes from this definition (see resolutions and responses at https://www.ubcm.ca/EN/main/resolutions/resolutions/resolutions-responses.html).3. The Future of Freight
In this panel, we explored multi-modal technologies to help reduce carbon emissions resulting from the transportation of container goods via road, rail and waterways. Allan Grant (Corvus Energy) presented on exciting marine battery technology for all-electric and hybrid freight vessels. Ports across the world are starting to enact laws requiring that incoming vessels incorporate electric and/or hybrid technology in order to use the port. Allan indicated that the Port of Vancouver is responsible for 80% of the City of Vancouver’s GHG emissions from transportation. Mike Bains (FortisBC) explained FortisBC’s targets to provide 5% of natural gas supply as renewable natural gas (RNG), typically from biomass. Costs of RNG are still quite high compared to conventional natural gas but new technologies are working to close the gap.4. From Pilots to Industry Drivers
The final panel highlighted current pilots involving smart vehicles and electric buses for low carbon transportation. Kelly Carmichael (BCIT) gave an overview of their pilot project in New Westminster to use street light electrical supplies to power curb-side EV chargers. By changing street lights from conventional high intensity discharge bulbs to LEDs, enough capacity can be re-purposed from the existing infrastructure to supply EV chargers. Eve Hou (Translink) illustrated the concept of “Mobility as a Service” and how companies in Europe are providing trip bundling services to demonstrate all mobility options and their combinations. Kristina Mlakar (Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium) showed a snapshot of CUTRIC’s innovative approach regarding the future of autonomous and electric mass transit, as well as existing projects to implement all-electric off-grid transit buses.
The passion for serious change was in abundance throughout the day as interactive presentations and enthusiastic conversation linked people from government, industry and non-profits. I know I felt as if my head would explode from all the interesting information but was left feeling invigorated with so many positive stories leading the way to minimize the harmful impacts of conventional transportation on the environment. I have no doubt that the event truly made critical connections to spark new collaboration in unmeasurable ways and continue the relentless pursuit of a transition to clean transportation.