An issue that I raised during the election campaign, and continue to bring up after getting elected, is the need to ensure BC implements energy policy that manages the transition to a low carbon economy and guarantees British Columbians a prosperous future for generations to come. I am deeply concerned that both provincial parties have developed platforms based on a future economy driven by the expansion of fracking and natural gas extraction in northeastern BC and the export of liquified natural gas to China. Both of these platforms fail the triple bottom line test of economic, social and environmental sustainability.
New technologies available around the world have meant that unconventional natural gas reserves are becoming easier to bring on line. The consequence is falling natural gas prices as there is a growing glut in the market. In fact, the US Department on Energy notes that China possesses the world’s largest recoverable shale gas resources, more than three times that contained in all of Canada. Even the US has more than twice the shale gas resource than Canada.
The NDP and Liberal position that their platform will create jobs is also short sighted. Very few long-term jobs will be created; the rest are short-term construction jobs that will need to be filled rapidly and likely by transient offshore or out-of-province workers. In fact, there are four times as many jobs in the film industry as in the oil, gas and mining sectors combined. An alternate approach might be to recognize that our existing natural gas resources have potential within the transportation sector as a transitional fuel. The potential for economic and job growth in this sector is large.
Under the previous BC administration, BC developed a leadership role in renewable energy technologies and the clean tech sector in general. Rather than supporting the growth in these industries, our current political parties are putting forward platforms that will make it harder and harder for these industries to compete. If BC cannot show leadership in this area, I don’t know who can. Without strong, independent voices in our legislature, I fear all the good work that has been achieved over the last few years will fall by the wayside.
I have been a strong supporter of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) playing a significant and growing role in BC’s electricity sector. I commend Gordon Campbell for showing leadership by engaging IPPs in producing an increasing share of BCs electricity market. It appears that this leadership is disappearing with the focus on northeastern BC’s natural gas and the weakening of the Clean Energy Act.
It is difficult for the clean tech sector to strategically invest in BC if there is no certainty in the procurement or regulatory process. This is particularly important as we move forward with the potential electrification of a growing fraction of the transportation sector. It is clear to me that industry understands the potential in BC for the clean tech sector. But industry needs to know that government also understands the potential for this sector.
BC Hydro’s lack of transparency and regularity in issuing calls for power is also of concern. A process needs to be established to allow local communities to have input into the type and scale of power projects that they would like to see developed. Engaging local communities with industry early in the process can establish a sense of local ownership and buy-in.
I believe BC needs to move forward as a renewable energy powerhouse in the North American market. In fact, I would like to see the Clean Energy Act amended to require that 100% of our electricity be produced by renewables and to increase the amount of power that BC exports. As we move towards the electrification of larger components of the transportation fleet and emissions pricing becomes a reality in a growing number of places (including California now with their cap and trade system), it is pretty clear to me that there will be increasing demand for renewables in the future. With strategic planning, BC can be a major supplier of this “green” energy.
BC is blessed with some very large capacitors (hydro dams) that could be better utilized in the years ahead. There is no reason why we cannot start to implement a smart grid system that is integrated across BC and into wider North American markets. With smart planning, large capacitors would play a major role in terms of load levelling (and water can even be pumped back up hill if there is excess winds, for example).
Large crown corporations with their burgeoning administrations and slow and opaque process of decision making are not known for their innovation and risk-taking. BC Hydro, in its current form may not be equipped to play the visionary role they need to perform. I think the role of government is to set the regulatory environment (i.e. Clean Energy Act, emissions pricing etc) and to provide a long-term vision for BC’s energy future. As a Crown Corporation, BC Hydro could become the visionary planning, advisory and contracting body that guides BC to become the energy powerhouse that it needs to be. With predictability and a plan, industry will find the solutions.
The Green Party of BC is unique in that it does not whip its members. I have made it clear that I will be moving forward with a campaign to promote renewable energy and clean tech on the provincial scene. That is why I spent the last months talking with a number of people within the clean tech sector. My approach fits in well with the Green Party platform and recognition of the need to move forward with clean energy production. Obviously I will also address numerous issues local to my constituency but, as Deputy Leader, I will be addressing provincial issues on behalf of the party and will make transitioning to renewable energy an important provincial imperative
Comments are closed.