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2004 Energy

Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), British Columbia

Turbogenerator Installation at the Waste-to-Energy Facility

Population: 2,000,000

Since opening in 1988, the GVRD's Waste-to-Energy Facility (WTEF) has disposed of 250,000 tonnes of waste annually, about 20 per cent othe total solid waste disposed of in the Greater Vancouver area. In order to create electricity from the steam produced by the facility, the GVRD installed a 25megawatt (MW) turbogenerator. The project resulted in annual revenues of about $5.3 million through the sale of electricity, lower costs associated with waste disposal, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission offsets of 66,000 tonnes. Over 150 full-time jobs were created over the two-year construction period, and the SEEgen (Social, Economic and Environmental generation of electricity) project was designed for easy access and modification for a future project that will include a district energy system.


A participant in FCM's Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) since 1996, the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) is a recognized leader in sustainable community initiatives. The GVRD consists of 21 individual member municipalities and takes a very active role helping its members to co-ordinate PCP-related and other sustainable development activities. GVRD has submitted numerous successful applications to the Green Municipal Funds (GMF).

For example, the GVRD partnered with the City of North Vancouver on an eco-industrial park; with the City of Burnaby on a study to examine parking supply and other sustainable transportation opportunities for commuters; and with the City of Vancouver on a sustainable streetscape project that aims to protect fish habitat.

The GVRD's waste-to-energy facility (WTEF) is located in the City of Burnaby and provides waste disposal services to about two million people, disposing of about 250,000 tonnes of garbage every year, or 20 per cent of the total municipal solid waste disposed of in the Greater Vancouver area. The WTEF has state-of-the-art pollution control and has had many 'first' successes in its industry: the first in North America to implement a treatment for mercury reduction and the first in Canada to install an aqua-ammonia injection system for NOx reduction. This project is the first of its kind in Canada to sell both steam and electricity from the combustion of MSW. The WTEF is also the second facility of its kind in North America to be certified by the International Standards Organization for Environmental Management Systems (ISO 14001).

This project is one of many initiatives that the GVRD has undertaken to fulfill its vision of providing cost effective and environmentally safe waste disposal and recycling services. It also complements the objectives set forth in several of the GVRD's long-term planning strategies. The WTEF operates under the direction of the GVRD's Solid Waste Management Plan and is committed to continual improvement in environmental and social responsibility and cost-effective operations.


  • An annual reduction of 66,000 tonnes of GHG emissions by displacing BC Hydro's use of fossil fuels to generate the equivalent amount of electricity.
  • 15 MW of electricity have been added to the BC Hydro grid. The minimum annual revenue from the sale of electricity is estimated at $5.3 million.
  • Eliminated emissions associated with the paper recycling mill's oil burning steam plant. The plant was permanently shut down, saving the paper mill up to $1 million.
  • Nitrous oxide emissions have been reduced as a result of increased combustion control efficiency.
  • Over 150 full-time construction jobs were created over the two-year construction period, and four full-time operational jobs.
  • The SEEgen project won a PowerSmart Excellence Award in May 2004, a 2003 award for the best large energy facility from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and a 2003 award from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C.

Lessons Learned

  • SHARE THE RISKS. The GVRD stated that the best decision it took was the sharing of risks and responsibilities by using a partnership approach. Risk areas were allocated to the partners that had the relevant expertise to manage them. For example, the GVRD took control of municipal solid waste flow management during construction and built relationships with the waste haulers.
  • RESEARCH WITH AN EYE TO THE FUTURE. Ms. Babensee stressed the importance of conducting a thorough investigation of how the technology will be used. "To make it more integrated, we modified the design of the turbine so that in future it could supply district heating," she explained. "If we hadn't done that at the time, it would be financially impossible to do it later." Looking at all future opportunities will help the GVRD double the use of the energy for a bigger payback.
  • EDUCATE YOUR PARTNERS ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES. The Pembina Institute was approached to provide training for all WTEF employees to reinforce the principles of sustainability and to ensure that those principles were taken into consideration during the design, planning and operating stages. "We wanted them to have that mindset from the beginning," said Ms. Babensee.

Partners and Collaboration


Engineering and Construction Department:

  • Contracted Services Division
  • Major Projects Division
Policy and Planning Department:
  • Regional Utility Planning Division
  • Demand Side Management Division
Communications and Education Departments

  • Montenay Inc.
  • Norampac Inc.
  • City of Burnaby
  • BC Hydro
  • Pembina Institute
Page Updated: 21/12/2015