Burning garbage may soon heat Burnaby homes

Your home may one day be heated by burning garbage – but that would be a net positive for the environment.

It all depends on whether a project at the Metro Vancouver Waste-to-Energy Facility, located in Burnaby, succeeds. The city and regional district are putting in a joint proposal for funding from the federal and provincial governments to help fund the project.

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The waste-to-energy facility currently burns garbage to produce steam, powering a wind generator to produce electricity for the region.

City staff were given the go-ahead from council last July to work with Metro Vancouver staff on a feasibility study for a project that would capture the heat produced from the process for residential and business use.

If approved, the proposed project would convert the steam to hot water, which would be transported through an underground system to nearby properties. The heat from the water could be used for home heating and hot water and potentially for cooling, according to a city staff report.

The energy could also be used for community facilities, like swimming pools and ice rinks, along with industrial uses, staff said.

Staff noted the project would prevent thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions each year. That’s in part because it would offset the use of natural gas but also because using the hot water produced by the facility would avoid energy losses that come from converting steam to electricity.

In all, the city estimates up to 70,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent could be saved through that process. That’s the equivalent of tailpipe emissions from nearly 31 million litres of gasoline – roughly 470,000 refuels of a 65-litre tank – according to calculations by the NOW using federal government statistics.

Burnaby and Metro Vancouver are expected to appeal to the federal and provincial governments through the Canada Infrastructure Program. In September last year, the provincial and federal governments committed $150 million for green infrastructure.

City staff said the incinerator heating project would be “very well-suited” for some of that funding, which is earmarked for projects that meet one of three criteria, including reducing pollution.

If approved, the project will be funded up to 73.33% (40% from the feds and 33.33% from the province), with the rest to be funded by Metro Vancouver.

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