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Moving forward with virtual site assessments keep FortisBC pilot projects on track during pandemic

Jun 3, 2020

SURREY, BC  ̶   June 3, 2020: Going virtual has helped FortisBC continue to advance its plans to test a new ultra-efficient natural gas heat pump, the first of its kind in B.C., while respecting physical distancing measures. With the help of video calls via customer cell phone, FortisBC staff are able to tour potential pilot sites without ever having to enter the property.

FortisBC is in the process of identifying six residential and four small commercial properties to test a promising natural gas heat pump unit from ThermoLift, a North American heat pump manufacturer. These heat pumps can heat and cool the home as well as heat water, meaning they can function as a furnace, water heater and air conditioner. In lab environments, the units were over 100 per cent efficient, lowered energy costs by 30 to 50 per cent for space and water heating and worked even when outdoor temperatures dropped to -25 degrees Celsius. If they perform as well in real-world settings, they will meet the federal government’s goal, 15 years ahead of schedule, of having all space and water heating appliances over 100 per cent efficient, as outlined in the Pan Canadian Framework.

FortisBC launched its search for suitable test properties in March and began assessing early applicants with a plan to conduct in-person site assessments but suspended work mid-month in response to COVID-19. Using Google Street view as well as photos sent in by potential participants of their existing space heating and hot water systems, home assessments were able to restart. With the help of interested property owners, FortisBC has completed 18 virtual home assessments over video calling so far and identified the top residential candidates to move forward in the next stage of the pilot program. Applications are still open for small commercial properties and interested property owners can learn more about the program and have until Friday, July 31 to apply.

“Our team continually works to identify the next generation of high-efficiency technologies to help British Columbia meet climate action goals,” said Jim Kobialko, manager of innovative technologies and projects. “The sooner we complete the pilot, the sooner we can prove the technology, quantify energy savings and provide incentives for our customers. By thinking a little outside the box, we’ve been able to keep moving forward.”

FortisBC expects to install and begin testing the units later this year and early in 2021. In exchange for the heat pumps, participating property owners will allow the unit to be monitored and provide regular feedback for one year. This information will help FortisBC better understand how these units operate on a day-to-day basis in a real world setting and determine if they meet the requirements for a full-scale energy efficiency rebate program.

Testing innovative technologies is one of the ways FortisBC is advancing energy efficiency in B.C. and working toward its 30BY30 target of reducing its customers’ greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by the year 2030. Since 2009, FortisBC has invested $12 million into developing and piloting new technologies and plans to invest an additional $10 million over the next five years. FortisBC has identified and evaluated several technologies and among those, 19 became full-scale rebate programs.

FortisBC also looks for potential pilot participants for a range of technologies on an ongoing basis. Participants are selected based on the timing of their application and whether their home or business meets eligibility requirements.

For more information on FortisBC’s pilot programs visit


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FortisBC Energy Inc. is a regulated utility focused on providing safe and reliable energy, including natural gas, propane and thermal energy solutions. FortisBC Energy Inc. employs more than 1,800 British Columbians and serves approximately 1,008,400 customers in 135 B.C. communities. FortisBC Energy Inc. owns and operates approximately 49,000 kilometres of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines. FortisBC Energy Inc. is a subsidiary of Fortis Inc., a leader in the North American regulated electric and gas utility industry. FortisBC uses the FortisBC name and logo under license from Fortis Inc. For further information visit