PC MLA proposes ban on oil heat in new PEI builds

·3 min read

A Progressive Conservative backbench MLA plans on introducing legislation to ban the use of heating oil in all new buildings in the province starting next year.

Sidney MacEwen, MLA for Morell-Donagh, says he plans to introduce a private members' bill this session that would ban the use of fossil fuels, including oil heat, as a heating source in any new buildings. He said the move will cut greenhouse gas emissions and, in the long run, save homeowners, businesses and the government money.

"Our greenhouse gas emissions in P.E.I. don't add up to a lot, percentage wise, in the world but we need to set an example, and when our jurisdiction does that other jurisdictions get on board and that will work to help solve the climate crisis," said MacEwen, who sits on the special standing committee on climate change.

"The concept that [oil heat] is cheaper at the start is one thing, but we know long-term if you are installing a heating system that uses an alternative source in the long-run it will actually be cheaper. You're only looking at the up front costs not the long-term costs."

Third largest contributor of GHGs

The P.E.I. government has set a goal of net-zero energy consumption by 2030, which would be the first province in Canada to meet that target.

Net-zero energy consumption is reached when the total amount of energy used is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created.

Pierre Fournier/CBC
Pierre Fournier/CBC

Buildings are P.E.I.'s third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, behind transportation and agriculture, according to the province.

About 12 per cent of P.E.I.'s greenhouse gas emissions comes from buildings.

Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Steven Myers said he supports the ban on oil heat. He couldn't put a price tag on the move, but he said although it will be costly up front, in the long-term it will save the province money.

'We don't allow any help on new builds'

Myers said while the province provides incentives to retrofit existing homes and businesses, it does not provide help for new builds. He hopes to change that.

"Currently, we don't allow any help on new builds and that's one of the issues that has been identified over and over again in our department as far as utilizing the efficiency program, so we're looking to see what we can do to change that," said Myers.

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

But Myers said the province needs to do its part, pointing out that there are a number of aging provincial government buildings, including schools and hospitals, that need to be upgraded.

"We're looking at some of our schools now and saying 'Can we do solar on-site? Do we have enough room?' Not all cases we will," he said. "We're looking at some of our own buildings for the same purpose, can we put solar on our roofs? … Or where can we use wind?"

'It's something that will shock some counterparts'

Green MLA Karla Bernard described the idea of the private members' bill as encouraging, and that it would set an example for the rest of Canada. But she said the big test will be ensuring the promised legislation is turned into action.

Al MacCormick/CBC
Al MacCormick/CBC

"We have a very green Conservative government here, I would say more so than anywhere in the world," she said. "I do think it's something that will shock some counterparts across the country."

MacEwen said he hopes Islanders will see this as a positive move, one which will benefit Islanders and the environment, describing it as "a way of the future.

"A lot of the new homes that are being built here now are using alternative forms of energy, we've seen the increase in heat pumps, solar all those types of things. It's happening now."

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