CEO Letter – January

Passive House Canada CEO Chris Ballard

Hello everyone,

A needed holiday break has left me reinvigorated and looking forward to pushing the Passive House agenda across our country. I hope the break did the same for you. From where I sit, I see increasing opportunities for our members as municipal governments implement building standards that are, or equivalent to, Passive House. And even in those areas where Passive House isn’t specified in law, we know our methodologies and components make it easier, faster and less expensive to hit net-zero targets.  

2024 is shaping up to an exciting year for the Passive House community and we will continue to push legislators to make the right decisions. There are several issues we’re tracking: 

Subsidizing Fossils in Ontario in the Name of Affordability 

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) recently ruled it was “unreasonable” for Enbridge Gas to assume gas hookups will be in all new homes, given the growing trend away from gas and toward electrification. This is a bold statement and acknowledges what we all know, but few in the fossil fuel industry, and some governments, want to hear. 

However, the Ontario government swiftly announced plans to overturn the independent OEB’s  decision that would disincentivize the use of gas in new housing developments. The OEB’s decision would require property developers, rather than gas customers, to pay for natural gas connections to new buildings. The OEB found gas users, who are forced to foot the multi-million-dollar bill, could be on the hook for stranded assets in the future.  

Heat Pumps Anyone? 

Meanwhile, a recent report by the Canadian Climate Institute (CCI) found heat pumps are the most cost-effective heating and cooling option for most households in Canada, particularly in single-family homes and townhouses across various cities. The CCI has an interactive tool that allows you to compare the cost of heat pumps to other home heating and cooling options in five cities across Canada. Although rudimentary, it gets at the basics of why heat pumps save money. 

When I see you next, let me regal you with tales of how much money I’ve saved after moving to a heat pump (with gas backup – sigh). 

Alberta Cutting Green Standards in the Name of Affordability 

Meanwhile in Alberta, we are concerned about the Alberta governments proposed change to the building code bylaw authority in Calgary and Edmonton’s city charters. When the legislature returns, the province will be making changes to ensure neither city can legislate energy efficiency above that which the province has in place. This move is poised to effectively eliminate higher efficiency building standards. We’re talking with our colleagues at Passive House Alberta for their take on the issue and have recently reached out to their members. 

British Columbia Fire Season Could be Worse in 2024 

The Passive House standard is becoming increasingly important in keeping people safe in the face of climate-related wildfire smoke. And with news that the 2024 wildfire season in B.C. could be another bad one, we know Passive House is more important than ever in keeping people safe.  

Wildfire experts are cautioning that British Columbia might face another severe wildfire season in 2024, given the existence of 106 “zombie” fires still smoldering underground with an extended fall and winter drought. The University of British Columbia is establishing a center for wildfire coexistence, and its members stress that the implementation of prescribed burning and the clearance of fuel near communities will play a pivotal role in protecting residents.  

As Benjamin Franklin famously advised fire-threatened Philadelphians “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I encourage our BC members and governments to continue to push for expanding mitigation measures and building a more resilient BC — with Passive House at the heart.