Letter to the editor: Share healthy change — not fossil fuels

Dear editor,

Re: Jan. 5 article “Natural gas rates to drop

Reading the newspaper over the weekend, I saw Rod Link’s article “Natural gas rates to drop” on page 2 citing a modest reduction in natural gas prices for residential customers from Vanderhoof to Prince Rupert. But while northern B.C. residents have been “shouldering the cost of PNG’s pipeline and operations” due to the lack of large industrial customers, the rest of the province has started to make a switch off fossil fuels heating their homes.

Did you know that buildings and homes across this country account for 18 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions? Or that the fuel used in our gas stove and heating systems comes from hydraulic fracking wells across northeastern B.C.? Or that three-quarters of your stoves’ emissions occur when they’re turned off? These facts had eluded me until recently when I started considering replacing my inefficient hot water heater. I started doing the research and found many grants provincially and the Greener Homes Grant federally that take some of the cost burden (up to $5,000) off switching to more energy-efficient solutions for homes. One grant offers a $4,000 incentive for homes that transition off fossil fuels entirely, and yes, there are a few rebates for installing high-efficiency natural gas water heaters within FortisBC’s territory — sorry Northwest B.C. — but it’s clear from the Clean BC Better Homes grants that heat pumps, and electrification is the way of the future.

Natural gas is methane, and 80 times more powerful at warming our climate than carbon dioxide. This doesn’t only affect the environment’s health, it affects yours too. Methane emissions in the home can trigger respiratory diseases, according to new research that was published in late January. Take this information, and add it to the concluding paragraph in the Jan. 5 article: “the lack of large industrial customers continues to mean PNG’s customers from Vanderhoof to the coast are paying the highest delivery rates in the province — as much as two and a half times what Fortis B.C.’s customers pay on the Lower Mainland.

Why would anyone want to stick with natural gas if we could make the switch?

There’s older housing stock in Prince Rupert, and many homeowners may be looking to retrofit their home in the next year or two. There are grants out there for you if you want to switch off natural gas. If you need more research and information on why, check out Switch it up BC, a campaign trying to raise awareness on the climate and health risks of residential natural gas.

Change isn’t easy, and yet when I look for inspiration I see what the Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) First Nation is doing in its even more remote island community on the Central Coast. Since 2018, the Haíɫzaqv Nation has been switching fuel furnaces in homes and replacing them with energy-efficient air-source heat pumps. The project is reducing 700 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, which is equivalent to taking 220 cars off the road every year. Some homeowners are saving nearly $2,500 per year. As of March last year, 154 homes had made the switch, a third of the homes in the community.

We’re already experiencing the effects of climate change in Prince Rupert, and if it’s within our ability to contribute to reducing our footprint, while also saving money, I think it’s worth a try. While this article was informative about the history of the ebb and flow of our gas rates, I’d like to see more articles in The Northern View, and other Black Press community papers, about the provincial push to transition off natural gas, and how North Coast homeowners can take advantage of the many retrofit grant programs available. Writing about heat pumps may not be the sexiest feature, but neither is a 780-word story on natural gas rates. Consider sharing more information about healthy change, rather than the same boom-and-bust industry story on fossil fuels that clearly isn’t good for our lungs or the environment.


Shannon Lough

Prince Rupert, B.C.