On-Site Magazine

Richmond, B.C. looks at major scale-up of district energy system with tentative backing of Infrastructure Bank

By On-Site Staff   

Financing Infrastructure

RICHMOND, B.C.—A district energy system that heats and cools buildings in Richmond, B.C. through a series of underground pipes is poised to undergo a major expansion.

Lulu Island Energy Co., the municipally-owned entity in charge of the Metro Vancouver city’s district energy system, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) Aug. 1 that could kick-start a ten-fold expansion of the network.

Currently, three separate district energy utilities heat and cool a combined 330,000 square metres (3.6 million sq. ft.) of floor space in residential and commercial developments in small pockets of the city. Richmond City Council is looking at adding considerably to this centralized heat distribution network, which would allow developers to forgo boilers and chillers in new buildings. Once fully built out, the expanded system would have the capacity to heat and cool 4.7 million square metres (50 million sq. ft.) — though the major undertaking would most likely more forward in stages over several years.

Significant uncertainty about the project remains as well. The new MOU is not a formal agreement and the project will still need to overcome a number of hurdles before officially getting a green light.


Currently, the city and Lulu Island Energy are working with Corix Utilities — a private-sector partner since 2014 — to conduct further due diligence for the expanded district energy system. The CIB will now join the process, which it said “Could lead to an investment in the project, subject to all standard due diligence and decision making.”

“District energy is aligned with federal government and CIB priorities to invest in green infrastructure and there is potential for this project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Pierre Lavallée, president and CEO of the arms-length government agency, said in a release. “This is a tremendous opportunity for CIB to expand work with an innovative municipality and develop a project that can combine both public and institutional investment.”

Design plans for the expanded district energy system call for the use of sewer heat recovery technology that would heat and cool buildings hooked up to the system while producing no carbon emissions.


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