CleanBC, British Columbia’s (B.C.’s) climate and energy strategy, will get the province only 75% of the way to its 2030 climate target, the government admits. A new report from the Pembina Institute calls for the creation of a clean energy plan for B.C. to get it the rest of the way.
The report, Clean Future Forum – Identifying challenges and solutions for B.C.’s clean energy transition, summarizes discussions at the Clean Future Forum convened by Pembina in February 2019 specifically to examine B.C.’s future energy needs. Its recommended clean energy plan for B.C. would grow the clean energy mix in the province at the expense of fossil fuels, but would do so without ‘picking winners’ and locking the province onto a particular energy path.
The hurdles that need to be overcome are not insurmountable, but it will take more than hydro, according to the report. Different energy sources have different strengths and weaknesses. There is no single source that will meet the needs of a diverse economy like B.C.’s.
The province is “a clean electricity powerhouse,” the report says, with more than 98% of electricity coming from renewable sources (mostly hydro, but also wind, biomass and solar). But research from Dr. Chris Bataille, associate researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris and a participant at the Clean Future Forum, found that half of global greenhouse gas emissions are hard to electrify.
Further complicating matters is our relatively poor understanding of clean energy options beyond renewable electricity. The Pembina report lists liquid and gaseous biofuels, synthetic fuels, hydrogen, and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage as examples of energy sources where we still have plenty to learn.
A clean energy plan for B.C. will provide clarity on the province’s future clean energy demand and potential, which will encourage the development of appropriate clean energy sources. It will provide a greater level of certainty, which can guide investment and infrastructure development. It can include support measures to help bridge the cost differential that sometimes separates clean energy from fossil fuels. Ultimately, it will build capacity.