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Potential EV requirements examined for Canmore's land use bylaw

“As EVs are becoming more mainstream, we wanted to get ahead of that and make sure we’re planning accordingly. We know these are the vehicles everyone will be driving. It’s niche right now, but it’s looking forward since all pathways show EVs will be the main passenger vehicle.”

CANMORE – A possible series of updates for electric vehicle infrastructure – including potential requirements for all new construction – could be coming in Canmore.

Town staff are looking at possible updates to the land use bylaw that could require all new construction to be EV capable to better align with a federal government requirement to have 100 per cent of car and passenger truck sales be zero-emission by 2035.

“As EVs are becoming more mainstream, we wanted to get ahead of that and make sure we’re planning accordingly. We know these are the vehicles everyone will be driving,” said Amy Fournier, the Town’s energy and climate action coordinator. “It’s niche right now, but it’s looking forward since all pathways show EVs will be the main passenger vehicle.”

Recommendations include possibly amending the land use bylaw to have all parking spots that are part of new construction be electric vehicle-ready, require all Town-owned buildings to have electric vehicle chargers, update guidelines and policy, and have consistent engagement and consultation with impacted parties.

While any amendments to the Town’s land use bylaw require council approval, the staff report’s recommendations delivered to committee of the whole earlier this year could be seen as further aligning with Canmore’s climate action goals, particularly with electronic vehicle use only expected to increase in the coming years.

The federal government has set aggressive goals to see more electric vehicle sales, with 20 per cent of all new vehicle sales mandated to be electric by 2026, hitting the 60 per cent mark by 2030 and having all vehicle sales be electric by 2035.

“It’s looking to what residents will be driving. It’s a future-proofing exercise. The study presented to council was community focused. … It was very much looking at Canmore as a whole and how is Canmore as a community prepared for electric vehicles,” Fournier said. “It was a best practice jurisdictional scan on what other communities were doing to prepare.”

The Town’s Climate Action Plan outlines the goal of reducing community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050 compared to 2015 GHGs. For municipal-owned property, it was a 50 per cent reduction by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050.

However, only a small amount of greenhouse gas emissions come from municipal-owned property and the bulk is from transit, commercial, residential and institutional buildings.

The Town has engaged with the Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association (BOWDA), which completed a survey giving members an opportunity to provide feedback.

“The response was both positive and very constructive. It confirmed or reaffirmed some of our assumptions and expectations of what are the major barriers or concerns to EV ownership all stemming from grid capacity,” Caitlin Van Gaal, the Town’s supervisor of environment and sustainability.

Ian O’Donnell, BOWDA’s executive director, said members and the organization’s sustainability committee have been reviewing the potential changes and have been part of discussions with the Town.

“We wanted to get an idea of where some of the risks and opportunities were, what some of the demand looks like in terms of what developers and builders and real estate professionals are seeing in the marketplace,” he said. “Whether or not that’s a saleable amenity or if it’s something that’s future-proofing or something that’s more aspirational by some builders and developers as part of their commitment to sustainability.”

O’Donnell said BOWDA will be having a follow-up roundtable with its members in September to look further at the EV subject as a whole, but also what changes may look like, potential added costs, how properties would be marketed and the capacity for EV chargers in the community.

“There’s a good variety of opinions and perspectives on EVs and what those changes in the land use bylaw might do in terms of layering an additional cost for developers at a time that affordability is top of mind for everyone,” he said.

“We have some developers that are leading the marketplace when it comes to sustainability and are already including the infrastructure for EVs in their developments, so they’re excited to see that possibly expanded.”

Fournier said it was cheaper to build EV infrastructure with new construction, noting retrofitting often costs significantly more.

“In 10 years, the residents of a multi-family building aren’t facing a massive renovation and a huge headache,” she said. “The cost studies we have indicate it’s about four times higher to retrofit than to do at the time of construction. EV capable requires the minimum amount of upfront infrastructure to remove the future barriers to EV installation. What can we do to make it easier later on knowing this will come.”

Fournier highlighted municipalities are unable to influence factors such as cost or technological aspects of electric vehicles, but a possible amendment to the land use bylaw could give people more options for making the switch from gas to electric vehicles.

And while electric vehicles are only one part of assisting in the climate crisis, she said it is part of reducing transportation emissions.

"We still need to prioritize shifting to other modes of transportation.”

The recommendations – which were completed by MacLean Consulting at the end of 2022 – outlined the possibility of having rebates for level 2 electronic vehicle chargers. Town staff is looking at that potential.

The review looked at ways to eliminate barriers to electric vehicle ownership, particularly when it comes to charging. Among the recommendations was developing an incentive program, which is something other municipalities have undertaken.

Upcoming capital projects in 2024 have two level 2 chargers being installed at the Canmore Recreation Centre and Elevation Place in 2024 and artsPlace will have a charger replaced, with all being pay-for-use.

A key aspect is the development of technology, with level 1 charging needing one hour of a charge providing eight kilometres of travelling, but level 2 – with a 240-volt power supply – is more likely to be what is needed for many residents, with 40 kilometres of distance for an hour of charging.

The review also looked at the necessary technical requirements for new construction, how and where the Town should support electric vehicle charging, what municipalities can do to encourage electric vehicle charging for new construction and potential equity issues the Town should look at for electronic vehicle charging.

“Fortis is the biggest factor in this. Not just the grid capacity, but its local infrastructure like transformers, panel sizes. This is the biggest deal when you’re talking about localized EV charging,” Fournier said.

Fortis is running an electric vehicle smart charging pilot to analyze the growing demand on the province’s electric grid. According to March 2022 data from the Ministry of Transportation, there were more than 5,600 EVs registered in Alberta.

However, the Alberta Electric System Operator predicts by 2035 there will be 1.5 million EVs in Alberta, leading to significantly higher electricity demand.

A staff report emphasized more than half of the Town’s GHG emissions are from heating and electrical needs. It recommended looking at the potential of solar canopies on municipal parking lots and looking at solar rooftop options at the Elk Run Road maintenance facility.

A rooftop incentive program and low-income energy efficiency retrofit programming were also recommended to be looked at by Town staff.

The study involved multiple sub-studies that looked at a virtual power purchase agreement, a solar canopy feasibility, solar program assessment and a lower-income retrofit program.

“I think there’s a good opportunity for some to take advantage of what EV incorporation might be into their project, but there’s also a real cost associated with it,” O’Donnell said. “There’s definitely concern about capacity and what the layering of some of these costs might look like and some of those unintended consequences of what that’ll do to the final purchase price.”

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