“On time, on budget” and Olympic Village in the same sentence

Vancouver City Council erupted in cheers and desk-thumping Thursday when city business strategy manager Karen Levitt announced that the Olympic Village’s Neighbourhood Energy Utility is being completed on time and on budget.

The utility, which captures waste heat from a sewer main passing underneath the Cambie Bridge, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent below those expected from conventional systems, while meeting 70 percent of expected energy demand in the Southeast False Creek area.

Warm water created by a heat exchanger in the utility will be circulated through radiant heating systems throughout the project. Supplementary power will come from natural gas. The capital cost is $29.3 million.

Thursday’s council committee meeting established the rates for energy sold by the utility, which is wholly city-owned. (Energy pricing wonks will appreciate the details available in the report, which can be downloaded at item 4 here.) Residents will have long-term stable pricing, but may wonder why their rates are linked to BC Hydro’s, which are expected to rise in the coming decade as private power generation is blended into the supply. Never mind, the utility will earn its way and actually pay for itself.

The on-time, on-budget announcement by Levitt and city engineer Brian Crowe, who made the council presentation, comes in spite of a long detour the project made three years ago, when the council of the day toyed with burning wood waste at the site. My False Creek neighhours on Spyglass, adjacent to the utility, objected loudly, even mounting a billboard that made the proposed incinerator look like a left-over from early Soviet steel plants in the Donbas.

The city backed down, the waste heat recovery system was restored, and False Creek residents who have followed the project are very happy with the new design.

Look for Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Greenest City Action Team to seek more big gains in greenhouse gas reductions by updating or greening some of the city’s existing central and district hearing systems.