Nelson Hydro is investigating the feasibility of a district energy project that could allow it to sell carbon offsets to other public sector organization.
If the project goes ahead, it would reduce the amount of carbon currently being released into the atmosphere by thousands of tonnes. Nelson Hydro would have a central heating plant with underground pipes connecting buildings, removing the need for each building to have its own boiler or furnace.
If, for example, the central heating plant were on the waterfront it might connect to the grocery stores along Lakeside Drive and some of the large buildings on Front and Ward streets, including City Hall.
Corporate climate action coordinator Fiona Galbraith said it would be a large enough project to justify going through the onerous and expansive process of applying to be a carbon offset provider through Pacific Carbon Trust.
“With the number of offsets we’d be able to sell through that project and the money that it would generate, it would definitely be something worth pursuing,” Galbraith said.
Since signing onto the Climate Action Charter in 2007, the City has made significant gains in reducing its carbon emissions. Council set an aggressive target to reduce corporate carbon emissions by 25 per cent below 2007 levels by 2015, and Galbraith said Nelson is two-thirds of the way towards that target.
But the change hasn’t come cheap. The city has budgeted $1.2 million for carbon reduction projects taking place between 2010-2015.
Most of the early gains came from retrofitting city buildings with energy saving technology, such as new lighting, boilers and timers on heating and cooling systems. Now projects are getting more complicated and costly. For example, a bio-gas boiler is being designed for the sewage treatment plant to capture methane gas, which would be used to heat the building instead of the propane gas that is currently used.
But Galbraith said none of these projects are large enough in scale to justify selling carbon offsets from them. As well, projects considered “business as usual” in terms of corporate operations don’t qualify.
The district energy project, if it goes ahead, would be different because it would feed into both public and private buildings and outside the realm of normal operations.
“I think a lot of people are weary of the smoke and mirrors illusion of offsets,” Galbraith said. “Seeing them actually benefit a project in our own community might change that.”