Vancouver has become the first B.C. city to phase out the use of gas-powered water heaters in homes in a move that will roughly halve the amount of harmful emissions the heaters generate by 2035. In a Tuesday announcement, the city said that replacement water heaters in homes and duplexes must meet strict efficiency requirements starting next year.

The rules are not a firm ban on gas appliances; however, the only water heaters efficient enough to meet city requirements will be electric.

Under the changes, homeowners spending more than $150,000 on renovations will need to install high-efficiency water heaters starting in February 2025. And from January 2027 onward, all replacement water heaters must meet the efficiency requirement.

The new rules will keep gas water heaters out of the thousands of Vancouver homes that are due to change their water heaters between now and 2030, when similar provincial laws will come into effect. They will make it easier for the city to wean off gas use and save the equivalent of 3,700 cars' worth of emissions, according to a report prepared for the city, and it's being cheered on by observers.

"This is a huge regulation," said George Benson, senior manager of economic development and market transformation with the Zero Emissions Innovation Centre (ZEIC). "“It meets the needs of homeowners and contractors, and signals how others jurisdictions can move forward with the same kind of regulations.”

The decision comes amid a massive push by municipalities across Canada and the U.S. to phase out natural gas infrastructure. Recent months have seen a slew of cities from Montreal to Nanaimo implement rules that will encourage homeowners and builders to use electric heating and cooking equipment instead of gas-powered alternatives.

In a Tuesday statement, Vancouver mayor Ken Sim said that "it makes sense to upgrade our home appliances” as "cleaner technologies become available." The new update "won’t add costs for residents, streamlines existing renovation requirements and makes it simpler to get a permit, while helping to cut our emissions,” he said.

B.C. is also developing a province-wide efficiency standard for furnaces and water heaters that will complement existing rules limiting natural gas hookups in new buildings. Both rules are poised to come into effect province-wide in 2030, but municipalities can adopt them earlier if they want.

The push has spurred a massive backlash from Canada's natural gas industry. That has included lobbyists targeting municipal council meetings and online industry-linked groups pushing misleading information about the rules. According to a Canada's National Observer investigation earlier this year, the effort has also shaped opposition from some people in the construction industry and influenced a well-funded disinformation campaign against the measures.

"A lot of the pushback has essentially latched onto the existing narrative (that) governments and regulators are trying to phase out or ban the use of gas," said Dylan Heerema, a senior policy advisor at Ecotrust Canada, in a February interview.

That claim is not true, he said: the "efficiency-driven" regulation still allows gas as a backup system and gas heat pumps, which are more expensive than electric ones. Meanwhile, efforts by B.C. and municipal governments to limit the expansion of natural gas infrastructure have focused on restricting new gas infrastructure and fossil gas use but are making no moves to ban the fuel outright.

Still, Vancouver's latest move offers hope for future climate action in the face of these disinformation campaigns, said Roberto Pecora, director of building decarbonization at the ZEIC.

"[Vancouver] is moving forward with the urgency that correlates with a climate emergency," he wrote in an email. "What's notable is that this urgency has persisted through a municipal election cycle, demonstrating that climate action is one of the top priorities for Vancouver voters."

Good on Vancouver. And actually, much though I'm not a fan of the BC NDP on liquid natural gas, kudos to them on this front.

Meanwhile,
""A lot of the pushback has essentially latched onto the existing narrative (that) governments and regulators are trying to phase out or ban the use of gas," said Dylan Heerema, a senior policy advisor at Ecotrust Canada, in a February interview.

That claim is not true, he said:"

Well if it's not true, it should be. That's the goal. Methane salespeople, sucks to be you but the planet takes priority.