Hadi Dowlatabadi

 
Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not looking for graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows. Please do not contact the faculty member with any such requests.

Professor

Research Classification

Energy Production
Economic Planning of Energy
Climate Changes and Impacts
Public Policies
New Technology and Social Impacts
Health Policies
Transportation Systems

Research Interests

The systematic study of systems at the interface of humans, nature, technology and policy

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Research Methodology

Evidence, evidence, evidence
Characterization of uncertainties and their relevance to outcomes
Iterative learning and research based on the value of that learning and its purpose
Integrated assessment

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Stakeholder perspectives on adoption of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) (2019)

Projects in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry frequently performbelow expectations related to a variety of metrics for success. Various reasons have been foundfor these persistent performance gaps; the segregation of processes, services, and actors involvedin project delivery in the construction sector has been identified as a root cause. This results in abroken agency, self-interested behaviour, and uncoordinated efforts, which make it difficult tooptimize a product as a system.The project delivery method is important in defining the nature of the relationships betweenproject participants, the structure and organization of the project, and eventually the end results.Many have emphasized the need for more collaborative and integrated methods for projectdelivery in the AEC industry. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is one such method. Severalstudies have demonstrated that IPD outperforms conventional methods.In this thesis, I use qualitative methods to characterize environments supportive of IPD and keysto its successful implementation. I also investigate whether the contractual risk sharing framingof IPD hinder or enhance innovation adoption. Finally, I identify the factors that can impedeIPD adoption for public sector projects in British Columbia.I found that while executing IPD is perceived to be beneficial in many ways, successfulimplementations require specific preconditions beyond educating the industry about IPDprinciples. Success with this method requires development of novel approaches to projectplanning and management, and early acculturation to collaboration across the AEC industry.IPD was found to be instrumental in addressing some of the barriers to innovation adoption;however, foundational changes to the existing policies, regulations, and programs governing theindustry’s operations, and alternative business and financing models are required to alter theindustry’s approach towards innovation adoption.It was also found that while IPD could improve project delivery for the public sector in BritishColumbia, provincial decision-making processes and procurement regulations prohibit itsadoption here.

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If you build it, will they come? Using historical development patterns to better anticipate future development scenarios for cumulative effects assessment (2018)

In Canada and the United States, as in many other jurisdictions worldwide, environmental impact assessments required as part of the permitting process for proposed resource development projects include cumulative effects assessments. These aim to predict a proposed project’s environmental impacts in combination with those of past, present, and future projects. This last category of projects has been problematic for analysts. Detailed information about future projects is usually scant, and this limitation is often cited as a justification for excluding future projects from consideration. Conversely, a more speculative approach to estimating the potential economic benefits of future projects is widely accepted. Thus, the authorities responsible for permitting projects are often given restrictive assessments of environmental impacts and optimistic assessments of economic benefits. The goal of this dissertation is to introduce a practical approach to balancing the asymmetry described above—a method for considering induced development in CEA in order to give potential environmental impacts the same weight that potential economic benefits currently receive. To do this, I use the historical record to discern patterns of development that followed infrastructure. I do so in a specific geographic context and so develop empirical evidence of how projects build on top of preceding projects’ legacy of proximate services, labour, water and energy supplies, and routes to market. I then use this evidence to forecast the probable outcomes of permitting a proposed project in terms of likely future induced development. The initial iteration of the method uses British Columbia as a case study, and makes use of data on that province’s historical development. This first iteration is intended as a means of exploring and demonstrating the method’s value in a specific application, while providing a framework that can be refined and applied to other contexts.

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Long-run energy resource economics : reconciling uncertain carbon signals for integrated assessments of global environmental change (2018)

Studies of global environmental change require a long-term perspective that must contend with uncertain future human and Earth system processes. In this context, the scientific community frames possibilities for energy resource use with integrated assessment models (IAMs). IAMs combine various threads of scientific knowledge to allow systematic studies of hypothetical socioeconomic and technological developments. Engineering-focused IAMs maintain economic concepts of energy use initiated by studies which responded to the 1970s energy crises by anticipating that growing demand for energy could rely on a coal backstop supply. Thus, many scenarios of vast coal combustion were produced to illustrate this outlook, where humanity had no choice but to become “the intelligent mole”. Such coal backstop scenarios played an important role in early climate model development because they provided a strong carbon signal. Initial economic models of climate policy costs were based on assuming that the high-carbon backstop would always be cheaper than the low-carbon backstop. These ideas anchored expectations for future climate change as the IPCC assessment process was established, and continue to shape the uncertainty range considered by today’s studies.This thesis examines modeling concepts used to structure uncertain energy resource developments for long-term studies of global environmental change with a special focus on coal. The concept of a vast coal backstop energy supply is evaluated and these findings are applied to develop empirical constraints for an IAM coal supply curve. In the example considered by this thesis, an empirically consistent coal backstop scenario produces climate policy costs for a 1.5°C target equivalent to those for a 2°C goal that must overcome a vast coal backstop supply: the default configuration of many IAMs. An energy system phase space method is developed to map whether these long-run scenarios provide sufficient coverage of future uncertainties. It is found that IAM scenarios are needlessly constrained to produce outlooks for transitions toward a global energy supply with increasing carbon intensity. When these energy system scenarios are combined with socioeconomic projections for global per-capita income convergence, they serve to reproduce a style of reasoning that links aspirational equity goals with worst-case environmental consequences.

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Using network science to understand the knowledge exchange pathways in health systems research (2018)

Evidence-informed public policy has demonstrated positive outcomes for populations. Within the health sector, the concept of evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM) suggests that knowledge generated from scientific research will be translated into evidence to support better policy. To facilitate this process, the concept of knowledge translation (KT) was developed within the Canadian health context fewer than 20 years ago. Achieving the aspirational goals of EIDM and KT has proven difficult. Literature reviews have found that only 20% of knowledge transfer and exchange studies discussed real-world application and 14% of health research findings enter day-to-day practice, taking 17-20 years to do so. New knowledge emerges through collaboration. Many aspects of KT involve complex social processes fundamentally embedded in relationships. There is compelling research showing a group’s success in solving complex problems is primarily correlated with the quality of relationships individuals form. Existing frameworks are almost devoid of interpersonal knowledge exchange (KE) networks and therefore only tell part of the story. Epidemiology has embraced network science for quantitatively describing the transmission dynamics of communicable diseases as a contagion phenomenon. This dissertation uses a similar approach to suggest that KE shares fundamental properties with other contagions. The characteristics of individuals as well as the underlying network structure and heterogeneous patterns of combining and exchanging knowledge translates seamlessly.Two applications are used to support this novel contribution. At the macro- level, a bibliometric analysis is used to understand the international co-authorship trends in health policy and systems research (HPSR). The resulting data were used in a network analysis to understand the degree to which economic regions served by HPSR actually participate. At the micro-level, a survey was conducted in a public health agency with an embedded research mandate. The survey captured demographics, knowledge about research and interpersonal networks on which research knowledge flows. These results were used to show the knowledge exchange pathways within the respective networks. Bibliometric and survey outcomes parameterize scalable, generalizable networks. Both macro- and micro- applications use networks to develop strategies and highlight metrics that facilitate meaningful inclusion of the intended end users throughout the research process to improve KE for EIDM.

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Power to the people : thinking (and rethinking) energy poverty in British Columbia, Canada (2017)

Energy poverty, or the experience of struggling to meet one’s energy needs, is increasingly the subject of attention in Canada — though no established definition for it exists and the definitions that are used often obscure its connections with the systemic processes that create it. In this dissertation, I situate energy poverty as a justice issue and operationalize various understandings of justice (distributive, procedural, recognition-based and restorative) to discuss how energy poverty may be conceptualized in the settler- colonial context of Canada, and, indeed, how different conceptualization reveal different processes of its creation, as well as different approaches to addressing it.Based on empirical work with two First Nations communities in British Columbia (Musqueam and Tsay Keh Dene), I outline the unfolding of energy poverty in BC amidst a constructed narrative of energy plenty, which aims to expand the reach of the extractive energy industry in the province. In doing so, I link specific energy planning processes that create precarious energy access, with mundane details of how energy poverty manifests itself in household practices that use energy. This linking of the experience of those who experience energy poverty and energy planning processes that create it reveals not only how industrial energy demand in BC is privileged over residential energy use broadly, but also how the energy demands of off-grid indigenous communities such as Tsay Keh are deemed ‘artificial and illegitimate in the community energy planning process.This ethnographic work (including surveys, interviews, energy mapping exercises and energy ana- lytics) is complemented with a statistical analysis of data from Statistics Canadas Survey of Household Spending. This analysis highlights patterns in energy poverty across Canada and demonstrates a gap between the experience of energy poverty and the design and targeting of the residential energy retrofit programs that aim to address it. I conclude by making a series of recommendations for those who fight for energy justice, including the development of community-based energy programming (e.g. deep retrofits and community renewable projects) and broadening the scope of energy poverty alleviation programs from a focus on low-income households to include lower-middle class households as well.

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The evolution of carsharing : heterogeneity in adoption and impacts (2017)

The focus of this thesis lies on understanding how heterogeneity in carsharing (CS) and members at different stages of its adoption in society shape its impacts on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and car ownership. Past studies have two shortcomings: they do not acknowledge the bias that could arise due to the keen interest of early adopters, and they did not tease out the role of service type in observing outcomes of interest. The serial studies in this thesis found the potential of CS to reduce GHGs and vehicle dependency. However, this does not mean that CS promises to always provide these benefits to everyone. The positive effects found among early adopters do not guarantee that the same effects would be realized among coming adopters especially because early adopters of CS are atypical of the general public in many individual and household characteristics. This is the one of the two primary findings from this thesis: the dynamics of CS service diffusion. As the adoption stage matures, the usage and roles of CS would be changing hence the effects.The second primary finding is the importance of heterogeneity between CS services. Two distinct CS services were found to have different impacts in vehicle ownership change, suggesting that the heterogeneities among CS services affect how the services are utilized; hence what kind of effects the CS services bring to society. Policy makers often generalize various CS services as CS; however, the heterogeneities will need a more careful attention and specifically tailored policies in order to ensure CS impacts continue to align with sound urban transport policy.These dynamic changes will affect how CS services should be maintained. Managing shared properties has been a challenging issue, and this may become even more difficult with more diverse users and CS service models. Active knowledge sharing and collaborations among stakeholders (policy makers, CS providers, and scholars) may be a kay factor to bring further benefits to all. As CS carries the word of “sharing”, if these stakeholders could build a better collaborative “sharing” environment, a large part of the potential of CS may be feasible.

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The adoption of ground source heat pumps at multiple scales in North America (2016)

In North America, space heating, hot water, and air conditioning use more secondary energy than any other activity within buildings, thus emitting the majority of scope 1 and scope 2 Greenhouse Gases (GHG). The Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) uses one-third the energy of traditional technologies to provide space conditioning and hot water services.While GSHP is a well-established technology, the energy savings and lower GHG emissions have not translated into their widespread adoption. Public policy measures and financial incentives adopted to promote GSHP have failed to lead to broad adoption or lower costs. This thesis examines the adoption of GSHP in response to supportive policies among residential, institutional, and city-scale adopters.Detailed site-level and panel data permit natural experiments on the response of residential adopters in Canada and the US to changing incentives. At higher scales, regulatory proceedings concerning the offering of Thermal Energy Services (TES) has provided a case study for analysis of utility models to finance GSHP for commercial and institutional clients.In Canada and the US, financial incentives failed to sustain the adoption of GSHP throughout or after the period of subsidy among residential households. Neither did incentives lead to a decrease in price over time. Free-ridership problems in Canada and an inability to make inroads to areas served by natural gas have stranded GSHP technology. Further, the capital cost of GSHP results in a higher lifecycle cost than most alternatives. The economy-wide benefits of financial incentives for GSHP are limited in Canada, where most heat pumps are imported.TES provide compelling innovations to bridge barriers at higher scales. TES overcome balance sheet constraints on debt common to public sector organizations by financing capital equipment and renovations as utility payments. TES can overcome capital constraints faced by developers by financing equipment inside the building lowering construction costs. However, our case study of public procurement reveals TES to be a costly approach in the long run. The insights from this research are translated into best practices and policy advice to improve contracting, increase awareness, and align incentives for greater efficiency.

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Modeling and mitigating the climate and health impacts of emissions from public transportation bus fleets : an integrated approach to sustainable public transportation (2012)

Public transportation has been widely promoted as a means of increasing the sustainability of urban transportation systems; however these systems also have adverse impacts. Further, although transit agencies are making efforts to address these impacts, the assessment tools and mitigation options available to them are limited. An integrated assessment model was developed to explicitly address the adverse climate and health impacts of the primary exhaust emissions from heavy-duty transit bus fleets. Models of the climate and health impact pathways were developed at several different spatial scales (e.g., macro, meso, and micro). These models were used to quantify the potential of a novel operational control strategy based on vehicle scheduling optimisation to reduce the impacts and costs of operating transit bus fleets. In addition to demonstrating the benefits of the vehicle scheduling optimisation, the results showed that transit agencies that optimise for operating costs and/or climate impacts alone may inadvertently increase health impacts and highlight the need for an integrated assessment approach. In developing the health impact pathway model, particular attention was devoted to evaluating methods of modeling vehicle activity and emissions and the implications of these methods on estimating exposure and health impacts. In comparison to micro and meso scale assessments, traditional regional/macro scale assessments based on emissions inventories were found to underestimate exposure and health impacts because they do not account for the intra-regional spatial variability in, and relationship between emissions and populations. Further, traditional distance-based emission factor modeling approaches were found to poorly characterise the spatial distribution of emissions as well as underestimate total emissions in comparison to modal modeling approaches because they do not fully account for the effects of vehicle activity. However, while modal modeling approaches likely have several advantages over emission factor modeling approaches, an evaluation of a major new modal emissions model developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, MOVES, revealed significant biases in the model’s predictions of NOX, PM, and THC emissions from both diesel and CNG transit buses. This suggests that with respect to transit buses, MOVES would benefit from further calibration and its predictions should be interpreted with care.

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An integrated assessment of climate mitigation policy, air quality and traffic safety for passenger cars in the UK (2010)

Climate change mitigation policies applied to passenger cars can be effective in reducing tailpipe CO₂ rates by changing vehicle mass, fuels, and drive-train technology. However, these same factors can lead to changes in vehicle emissions, vehicle safety, and, consequently, changes in health outcomes from air pollution and traffic collisions. These relationships are examined using the UK as a case study where tax regimes based on tailpipe CO₂ emission rates have been in place since 2001.Policymakers are tasked to design CO₂ policies for passenger cars, but the effectiveness of new policies will depend on how well climate mitigation is balanced with other relevant risks. I examine the rationale and introduce the basic framework for an Integrated Assessment approach to quantitatively assess passenger car CO₂ policies. As industrialized countries transition to more heterogeneous fleets with increasing uptake of alternative fuels and technologies, the importance of decision criteria choices, risk metrics, system boundaries, and inclusion of all relevant risks using an Integrated Assessment framework will be increasingly critical.Since 2001, there has been a strong growth in diesel car registrations in the UK. For 2001-2020, I estimate that switching from gasoline to diesel cars reduces CO₂ emissions by 0.4 mega-tonnes annually. However, current diesel cars emit higher levels of PM10 and the switch from gasoline to diesel cars is estimated to result in 90 additional deaths annually (range 20-300) from 2001-2020.The UK has also had an increase in registrations of lighter vehicles. The relationship between tailpipe CO₂ emission rates, vehicle mass, and traffic safety risks were examined. The two-car “first law” fatality risk ratio for drivers of lighter cars relative to drivers of heavier cars was estimated to be the mass ratio raised to the power 5.3. Independent estimates of driver killed or serious injury risk in two-car collisions were found to be inversely related to vehicle CO₂ emission rates. Scenario analyses show that policies combining incentives for lighter cars with a 1,600 kg upper limit for new cars should simultaneously achieve traffic safety and climate mitigation goals more effectively than policies with no upper limit on mass.

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Many faces, many frames : exploring the dimensions of justice and climate change policy decision-making (2010)

Climate change presents profound justice dilemmas because of its asymmetrical costs and benefits. This is complicated by the tendency of both climate change and justice to change their appearance across contexts. This dissertation explores how arguments about justice are used in debates about how climate policy should be designed.Part A focuses on how arguments about justice have been used in debates about ideal architectures for international climate policy. A framework for analysing international climate policy proposals is developed using literature from both the philosophy and policy analysis communities. This analysis identifies three archetypal approaches to climate change policy at this level, each of which has potential justice implications. Part B explores public perceptions of justice in mitigation and adaptation climate policy contexts. This section creates and applies a methodology to explore the arguments about justice considered relevant by lay public participants in a series of climate policy decision dilemmas. Among other results, this part highlights the importance of framing in considerations of justice in climate policy.Finally, Part C explores climate policy dilemmas currently faced by policy insiders at the sub-national level, and cross-examines the views policy-insiders and the public think each other have on these issues. This part of the thesis identifies a range of specific justice dilemmas at the sub-national level. It also suggests that mis-communication between policy insiders and the public may limit the range of climate policies considered politically feasible.Four lessons emerge from this dissertation. First, justice is pragmatically important when developing climate policy. Second, there has been a systemic lack of integration across academic, policy and public communities on questions of justice and climate policy. Third, climate change and justice have multiple faces. How climate change policy decisions are framed will shape the arguments stakeholders are likely to consider relevant. Finally, methodologically a mixed methods approach may be of use in other similarly ambiguous research contexts. Overall, explicit recognition of the importance and complexity of justice in climate policy decision-making may help us design more effective and desirable climate policies.

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Adapting conservation policy to the impacts of climate change : an integrated examination of ecological and social dimensions of change (2009)

Recognition of the impacts of climate change has prompted re-assessment of existing conservation policy frameworks (here thought of as collections of means and objectives that reflect values, beliefs and expectations of control). The concern is that changing temperature and precipitation regimes will alter an extensive range of biological processes and patterns. These system dynamics are at odds with long-established conservation policies that are predicated on assumptions of stable biodiversity targets (e.g. species or ecosystems), and that seek to protect these targets by means of static protected areas. Efforts to address this challenge have so far originated from the fields of ecology and biogeography and include the core adaptive strategies of expanding protected areas and implementing migration corridors. The purpose of this research was to reach beyond these disciplines to integrate across a set of ecological and social insights to develop a more holistic understanding of challenge of adapting conservation policy to the impacts of climate change. Two overarching questions guided this research: 1) do the impacts of climate change necessitate a different set of means, objectives and expectations than are indicated by current conservation adaptation proposals (i.e. proposals that include new protected areas and migration corridors as the primary adaptive strategy); and 2) if there is evidence that this is so, what are the barriers to implementing a policy framework with new means, objectives and expectations?Using a combination of case study, expert elicitation, and ethnographic methods, the results of this thesis provide empirical evidence that the impacts of climate change are seen by many experts to implicate the need for changes in conservation policy that include consideration of interventions such facilitating species distributions through disturbance, assisted migration, revised objectives, and triage-like priority setting. Yet simultaneously there is evidence of a public precautionary ambivalence towards these alternative elements of a potentially new policy framework, combined with durable more preservationist (less engineering) conservation values. It is contended that these value-based commitments have in part, shaped the adaptive response so far. Combined, these results highlight that policy adaptation within “science-based” conservation is a tangle of social dynamics, including durable preservationist-type values and related resistance to anticipated difficult trade-offs implicit in a more transformative decision framework.

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Public health responses to West Nile virus : the role of risk perceptions and behavioral uncertainty in risk communication and policy (2009)

Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases provide a challenge to public health in that the frequency, location, duration, and severity of the disease and outbreak are not always readily identifiable. In the absence of such information, the need to understand what drives risk perceptions, risk trade-offs, and heterogeneity in population behaviors becomes important in designing effective and appropriate risk communications, public health messages, and interventions. In this thesis, four studies are described that examine risk perceptions, risk trade-offs, and behavioral uncertainties as they relate to West Nile virus (WNV) prevention and control strategies. In Chapter 2, the health belief model was used to examine the influence of health beliefs and demographics on health behaviors recommended to reduce the risk of WNV. Results showed that health beliefs and subsequent behaviors varied based on the perceived risk and disease context. Respondents were more likely to engage in recommended health behaviors if they received timely information, understood the benefits of a particular behavior, and lived in areas exposed to WNV. Chapter 3 explored behavioral and demographic risk factors associated with risk perceptions of WNV and WNV interventions. Unique associations were found which merit further study to understand the extent of their relationships. In Chapter 4, risk trade-offs of WNV interventions were examined between laypeople and health experts using multi-criteria decision analyses. Laypeople perceived some WNV interventions to be more effective than health experts reported them to be. Health experts were most concerned about the effectiveness of such interventions. This showed that laypeople were more willing to make risk trade-offs given the scenario. In Chapter 5, probabilistic modeling techniques were used to characterize variability and uncertainty in population, environmental, pesticide, and exposure characteristics. By modeling a realistic mosquito abatement campaign, we found that children under 6 are potentially at risk of exposure to malathion levels that exceed standards set by Canadian and US regulatory agencies. Together, these studies highlight the importance of targeted programs and risk communications to specific sub-populations bridging knowledge gaps. Though the findings are specific to WNV, their implications are far-reaching and useful in preparing for other emerging and re-emerging diseases.

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Understanding and influencing energy efficient renovation decisions (2008)

This thesis is an investigation of why and how homeowners decide to renovate their homes. Energy efficient renovations are of particular interest given their potential contribution to public policy goals including greenhouse gas emission reduction. Policies seeking to improve energy efficiency in existing homes have to influence homeowners’ decisions. This requires a psychologically and behaviourally realistic understanding of the renovation decision process. Different research traditions offer competing models. These are tested through a series of hypotheses on the form and content of the renovation decision. The empirical dataset used combines both stated and revealed preference data. 809 homeowners in British Columbia were surveyed at three different cross-sections of the renovation decision process. The sample included both energy efficient (e.g., windows, insulation) and amenity renovators (e.g., kitchens, bathrooms), and was broadly representative of the population of renovating homeowners in British Columbia. Survey responses were calibrated using actual energy consumption data, and a supplementary survey of realtors. Calibration allowed homeowners’ expectations of the financial costs and benefits of renovating to be evaluated. Firstly, sampled homeowners systematically over-estimated their energy costs. Secondly, these estimates were subject to common information processing and recall biases. Thirdly, even homeowners in the middle of energy efficient renovations had expectations of capital costs, energy cost savings, and property value impacts that were largely unknown or unreliable. More generally, sampled homeowners lacked the basic knowledge necessary to appraise energy efficient renovations as financial investments. Homeowners’ motivations for renovating were more likely to be emotional and aesthetic in the case of amenities, but related to functional outcomes like thermal comfort in the case of energy efficiency. Social norms were influential in both cases but were underreported by homeowners. This was consistent with rationalisation biases which help individuals maintain self-esteem by emphasizing instrumental explanations for their actions. This psychologically realistic characterisation of the renovation decision suggests a range of design criteria for policy, and questions the effectiveness of narrowly-targeted information and incentive policies in their current form. However, policy implications should be generalised with caution given the low energy price and appreciating real estate market characteristics of the study region.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Renovation permits and the challenge of reducing emissions from legacy buildings (2018)

No abstract available.

British Columbia's 'carbon neutral government' mandate : influence on infrastructure decisions (2013)

The ‘carbon neutral government’ mandate in British Columbia offers an excellent opportunity to study whether requiring public sector organizations to be ‘carbon neutral’ is an effective policy within an overall strategy to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While many have criticized the use of offsets to achieve ‘carbon neutrality’ and channeling of public funds to the private sector, others have pointed out that the mandate has forced public sector organizations to measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions, and incentivized them to proceed with infrastructure projects that significantly reduced these emissions. Using a mixed methods case study approach, four post-secondary educational institutions in the Greater Vancouver region were selected, to investigate whether the ‘carbon neutral government’ mandate has influenced their decisions on infrastructure investments that would significantly reduce these organizations’ emissions. Through analyzing data on greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and expert interviews, this study provides a better understanding of the factors that motivate public sector organizations to take action to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, including the need to provide adequate resources and support mechanisms that will enable them to act so as to achieve the best possible policy outcome.

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Remote community electrification using woody biomass (2012)

In British Columbia (BC) there are approximately 60 communities not connected to the regional electricity grid, these communities are classified as “remote”. The prevailing technology for generating electricity in these remote communities is the diesel generator. Diesel generators are polluting, noisy, costly and unsustainable; yet communities rely on them for lack of a suitable alternative. However, many remote communities in BC are surrounded by forests, and may have access to a wood supply sufficient to meet community power requirements. In addition to displacing diesel for electricity generation, biomass power plants may also displace fuels for space and hot water heating.Co-generation with woody biomass in grid-connected applications at large-scale is well established. However, remote community electrification with woody biomass is an emerging field requiring a different approach to risk/benefit analysis, technology selection, sizing and demand management. This thesis examines the benefits, risks, and techno-economic feasibility of generating electricity from woody biomass in the context of off-grid communities in BC. Technology options were reviewed for their suitability to remote community applications. The finding of the review is that a Thermal Oil boiler coupled with an Organic Rankine Cycle turbine is the best choice for remote community power plants. Specifications and pricing for these technologies were applied in the techno-economic assessment and optimization study for Tsay Keh Village in British Columbia. The results of the analysis suggest that a bioenergy plant in Tsay Keh Village would significantly reduce air pollution, soil contamination due to spills, and noise, while also reducing the 25-year net present value (NPV) of energy expenditures.Provided that the many forms of risk are recognized and managed effectively, a Band-owned bioenergy power plant at Tsay Keh Village could result in many benefits to the community; including improved respiratory health, employment, protection from escalating fossil fuel costs, revenue and energy self sufficiency. However, in light of recent BCHydro Zone II electricity price increases, the stepped rate price structure and a trend of falling populations in remote communities, the economic risk of a community owned bioenergy plant in Tsay Keh Village appears to outweigh the potential benefits.

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Publications

 
 

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