Erin citizens’ group wants heat pumps required for new builds

Erin Citizens' Climate Lobby advocates for fossil fuel-free heating, cooling

ERIN – Liz Armstrong of the Erin Citizens’ Climate Lobby says climate change is a pressing problem, and she wants the town to require all new buildings to be heated or cooled without relying on fossil fuels.

Displayed on a large TV screen in council chambers on March 28 were photos of 2022 floods in Pakistan and of Canadian wildfires.

“What can our small municipality do?” Armstrong asked.

According to the resident, heat pumps are a minor solution to an existential problem.

A heat pump is an electrically-driven device that essentially transfers thermal energy between two locations; it can remove heat from outside air or the ground and transfer it inside, or remove heat from inside air and transfer it outside.

Armstrong pitched council on the pumps at the meeting, as the town undergoes work to form green development standards.

She suggested the town require developers to install the pumps and touted developments in London, Markham and Pickering relying on geothermal energy. She also noted green building standards in Montréal, where, starting this year, construction permits for buildings under 2,000 square feet are only being issued for those without greenhouse gas emissions.

And in Nanaimo, B.C., the local government has introduced new building emissions and energy efficiency requirements taking effect this summer, which generally require electric heating and cooling systems.

“Will the Town of Erin’s green standards aspire to be as high?” Armstrong said.

In 2023, then town planning and development director Jack Krubnik presented possible options for the town to pursue in developing green standards.

“Your commitment to green development will fast-forward our great community into a future we all want,” Armstrong said.

Erin Mayor Michael Dehn told the Advertiser the town’s work toward green building standards is ongoing, but he said anticipated development is likely to be underway by the time standards come into play.

The town also cannot require developers to outfit new buildings with heat pumps, because that goes beyond Ontario’s current building code.

Wellington County is working with Grey and Dufferin counties to develop “Tri-Country Green Development Standards” that are likely to inform Erin’s.

It’s possible standards will encourage rather than require steps such as heat pumps.

The county is also developing a financing program to fund energy efficiency retrofits, such as heat pumps, via a county loan repaid through a homeowner’s tax bill. The program isn’t anticipated to come into effect until 2026.