clean energy

Clean energy is good for the environment and the bottom line

The recent announcement of the $40-billion liquefied natural gas project in B.C. has generated praise from the business sector, the provincial and federal governments, and those who have expressed worry over the province’s investment climate. Concerns from the environmental sector have been heard as well.

Unfortunately, much of the technology in the first phase of LNG Canada’s project has already been secured, preventing extensive electrification of the plant. This project will consequently emit millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions at a time when we’re supposed to be moving in the opposite direction.

Some may say, so what? This is about helping the B.C. economy first and foremost. This is about following the path we have been following for a long while. This is just being smart. It’s all about the economy, stupid!

Environmental issues aren’t typically at the forefront of people’s minds. Most individuals care about a clean environment, but this thought lags behind the reality of what motivates them. This can be identified in the October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate report, which paints an increasingly bleak picture of our world, where greed overwhelms our environment to the point of irreversible destruction.

Global leaders recently discussed this vital subject in an emergency meeting based on the findings of the IPCC report. The muffled cry of climate change is proliferating into an unbearable howl that is forcing people to take notice, and it’s only getting louder.

Drawing the link between the environment and our economy has been a widespread challenge. This is due to the perception of long-term goals versus short-term rewards. Many of our leaders are rewarded for successes in the short term. However, climate change is a longer-term issue with vast ramifications for our economy; to put it bluntly, there can be no economy within a destroyed world.

The World Resource Institute recently published a simple graphic breakdown of the difference between a 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees Celsius of warming. The difference is huge. We have talked about climate issues for 30 years, yet we’re only beginning the journey to a low-carbon economy. The longer we delay action, the larger the cost and the lower the likelihood we will be able to manage the changes that are manifesting all around us.

The good news story

We at Clean Energy BC recently released our “Electrification of British Columbia” white paper, which paints a picture of what B.C. would look like if we were to extensively electrify the province. Should we meet our 2030 greenhouse gas target, we will have transformed B.C.’s communities, transportation systems and industries, thus positioning the province for competitiveness and prosperity in the global low-carbon economy.

In 2030, B.C. could be positioned for success in a decarbonizing global economy. Investors all over the world could associate the province’s brand with low-carbon products, services and expertise. But meeting B.C.’s climate targets will require both push and pull mechanisms. Organic growth alone will not be sufficient to meet climate targets; therefore, the need to push toward the behaviours outlined above will be necessary, along with pull mechanisms that make green changes desirable for the larger population.

B.C. must greatly expand electricity production to support the deep electrification required to meet the climate targets stated in the recent Climate Change Accountability Act. Our province can achieve this while growing the economy, keeping energy prices low, creating jobs and increasing resilience to climate impacts.

The vast majority of the world’s industrial economies are already moving toward a 100-percent renewable energy low-carbon economy. With California’s 100-percent renewable energy target by 2045 in mind, B.C. has vast amounts of untapped renewable energy. This represents one of the biggest development opportunities in history, and there’s never been a better time for low-cost, private-sector clean-energy power producers to ensure that the province delivers on its climate change commitments.

It’s never been cheaper

Over the past decade, the costs to produce electricity from wind, solar, geothermal, marine and run-of-river hydro have dropped significantly and, in fact, have never been more affordable. Also, with some $10 billion of investment funds currently available, the province’s independent private sector power producers are ideally positioned to deliver the infrastructure to provide this electricity, including that needed to electrify the natural gas sector and proposed LNG industry.

A recent wind-power auction in Alberta demonstrated that wind is now the nation’s most cost-effective source of new electricity. While many sources of renewable energy are variable-output, energy storage technologies are steadily improving, and BC Hydro and Power Authority’s existing large hydro storage plants can provide an effective backstop.

Value-added goods and commodities produced with very low-carbon electricity will be highly marketable in the growing low-carbon economy. Extensive electrification enables B.C. to meet our climate targets and would require boosting the province’s production of renewable energy by as much as 50 percent to meet the 2030 GHG targets and by as much as 100 percent to meet the 2050 targets. There’s never been a better time for low-cost, private-sector clean energy power producers to ensure that B.C. delivers on its climate change commitments.

Jae Mather is executive director of Clean Energy BC, which is holding its 16th annual conference, Generate 2018 – Transformation Through Electrification, November 26-28 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Vancouver

Original article was featured in BC Business on November 5th.