Power to the People – turning the page on energy policy in B.C.


It is clear the page has turned on energy policy in B.C. But what has yet to be written in the first chapter remains something of a mystery.

As with any transition of power there are promises to keep and opportunities to pursue. But there also are pressing problems to solve and pitfalls to be avoided.

The promises made by the incoming NDP administration were many and for the most part quite progressive. But they have been overshadowed by the seemingly endless negative commentary and speculation largely focused on big energy issues.

No LNG! No Kinder Morgan! No fossil fuels! No Site C!

And while some may cheer these prospects, the reality of politics is that you cannot govern on the basis of negatives.

What’s at stake? Simply put, in the absence of a bold new vision on energy and the economy, the message these negatives convey is that B.C. is not a safe place for investment.

For a resource-dependent economy such as ours, that is a recipe for disaster, one that a government with such a precarious hold on power cannot ignore.

What message might this new vision for energy and the economy convey?

The first and foremost message is that B.C. is a living laboratory blessed with the world’s most abundant supply of clean energy sources and we are open for green business.

Let’s count our green energy blessings:

• We are home to some of the strongest and most consistent wind resources in the world and we have a provincial electricity grid spanning the province that can distribute this energy;

• solar energy is taking root throughout the province and offers new hope for both grid-connected and remote communities too long dependent on high-cost and noxious diesel energy;

• we have enormous geothermal potential we have hardly begun to exploit;

• our tidal and ocean energy potential rivals that of any other location in the world; and

• in-situ hydro-electric capacity in the province supplies over 90 per cent of our electricity, a clean energy resource few jurisdictions can match.

Even for our fossil fuel resources, we have the capacity to be more environmentally responsible. For example, we can utilize hydro-electric energy to make LNG compression cleaner and more efficient.

Recent events have shown market realities are the key to whether LNG projects will proceed. But if they do sometime in the future, BC is well positioned to produce cleaner LNG than most other jurisdictions,

Here are a few points worth keeping in mind.

Decarbonizing the economy is not a quick or easy proposition. There are no quick answers, and killing one or more fossil fuel projects is not the answer. British Columbia is a resource-dependent economy and responsible resource management will always be needed.

But the potential for renewable/clean energy development is growing and harnessing B.C.’s electricity potential is the key to success.

But getting there will require patient and clear policies and programing. Throwing money over the fence for sporadic technology innovation is not the answer. We need funding that reduces energy demand and that creates viable green businesses.

The engine of green growth will be BC Hydro. We need this powerhouse corporation to implement forward-looking, predictable, and inclusive programs to electrify the economy.

Electrifying the economy not only will stimulate renewable energy development, it is the way to harness one of our most important energy resources — the energy we waste or don’t need.

More efficient use of energy requires the deployment of innovative technologies designed to conserve or reduce energy consumption.

This means investing in net zero housing, electrifying our transportation, system, reducing dependency on fossil fuels, helping remote and First Nations communities to be less dependent on diesel, and harnessing the enormous potential of offshore wind and tidal energy.

We have the energy resources needed to make this happen, but most importantly we have the human resources needed to make it a reality. British Columbia is home to some of the world’s most innovative technology developers and forward-looking thinkers.

The key missing ingredient is a clear, unequivocal vision for energy and the economy and a plan to make it happen.

This is where the new administration must step forward to dispel the negatives and to convey the message that British Columbia is open for business.

John Wiebe is president and CEO of the Vancouver-based GLOBE Group of companies.

This Article first appeared in the Vancouver Sun, September 28, 2017