Innovative Approaches to Low-Carbon Urban Systems

A Case Study of Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Energy Utility
February 2, 2015
546.93 KB27 pages

We know that we don't want to invest in more fossil fuel infrastructure, so what's the alternative green infrastructure we want? Marc Lee takes a cut at this question with a case study of the City of Vancouver's Neighbourhood Energy Utility (NEU), which powers the new Southeast False Creek neighbourhood.

It's "district energy 2.0", using modern technology to hit a sweet spot of clean energy, local control, and stable prices at competitive rates. The NEU uses sewage heat recapture to displace fossil fuels, and its public utility model challenges us to expand our conception of municipal services. With buildings representing about half of Vancouver’s carbon emissions, and almost all of this is for space and water heating, district energy is well positioned to do some of the heavy lifting of mitigation.

Marc analyzes the NEU to better understand its economics, environmental performance and governance features. He considers challenges and limitations, and to what extent this model is scalable and replicable. He concludes that the NEU is an excellent example of the integration of district energy into urban planning, a development that holds great promise at a time when the world needs real alternatives to business-as-usual.

This work was supported by EcoTrust and the Economists for Equity and Environment (E3) network, and their broader Future Economy Initiative. Several other case studies of coops, community-shared agriculture, digital sharing platforms and more are also available off the main site: The original NEU case study, and a write-up from the publishers, is available here: