Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Surrey's ENERGYShift: Creating a 21st Century City

As I posted about in October, the City of Surrey has been busy working on their climate change adaptation and energy use/GHG emissions reduction plans, together called ENERGYShift. The goal of these plans is to “establish Surrey as a model community in the areas of energy supply, reliability, sustainability and climate responsibility.”

Last week these plans were approved by Surrey Council. If these plans are implemented, Surrey will be transformed into a sustainable city that will provide a diversity of housing options, transportation options, and job opportunities. As the second largest city in BC (and not Vancouver), it will be look at by other municipality as an example of what can be done.

Surrey's Community Energy & Emission Plan notes that reducing energy usage is imperative to its success and long-term viability. It notes that energy spending is projected to rise 7% per year. We see this today with the rising cost of fuel and hydro. Without rethinking how we build communities, family financing will be pushed to the limit. Climate change will also have a large impact on the economic prosperity of Surrey and indeed the world. As noted in the plan, former Wold Bank Chief Economist Nicholas Stern “estimated the cost of reducing green house gas emissions to a safe level to be one percent of global GDP; compared to a loss of up to 20% of global GDP if nothing is done.”

In Surrey, the number one user of energy and the highest GHG emissions are from personal transportation. The second high user of energy and GHG emissions are from residential buildings.

With this in mind, Surrey plans to focus growth in mixed-use town centres and along multi-modal transportation corridors. The plan also commit to creating a community with a diversity of housing choices including more live/work units.

As land-use and transportation are linked at the hips, walk, cycling, and transit play a critical role in supporting the reduction of GHG emissions and energy use. Today 50% of Surrey’s population is within a 5 minute walk of frequent transit. Surrey wants that number to be 61% by 2020, and 75% by 2040. Transit plays a key role in Surrey’s plan, but walking and cycling also play key roles. By 2040, Surrey wants to have the community blanketed with walking and cycling routes which includes an extensive greenway system. This plan could save a typical family $230 per month in fuel cost by 2020 and $880 per month by 2040. With the reduced need to own an additional vehicle, saving could be higher.

Surrey’s plan is highly dependant on light rail being built in the community and a frequent bus network, so the potential failure of the upcoming transit referendum will have a devastation effect on Surrey’s success.

To further reduce energy usage and emission, the City of Surrey is committed to district energy. Wikipedia has a great article on this topic.

Surrey's plan also discusses the steps that need to be taken to adapt to climate change that is happening today. You can read more about their climate adaptation plan, but protects of floodplains and preservation of wildlife habitat in Surrey are a key parts of the mitigation strategy.

While I’m excited about the future of Surrey, one of the challenges will be to adapt this vision into some of the newer neighbourhood plans that are not due for review for some time. It would be a shame to see auto-oriented projects still being approved in future transit corridors or town centres. I hope Surrey tweaks these plans to account for its ENERGYShift policy.

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