Optimism and opportunity prevail at BC clean energy association annual meeting
Vancouver, B.C. – One week after the release of BC Hydro’s draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), an energized BC clean energy sector listened to more encouraging news from the provincial minister of energy.
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is to look at what we’re facing right now,” Rich Coleman told a luncheon crowd at the annual meeting of the Clean Energy Association of British Columbia (CEBC) in downtown Vancouver.
“We know that our demand for electricity is actually going to grow by 50 percent in the next 20 years. So they (BC Hydro) are going to have to find more than 2,000 gigawatts of power.” “Our first priority is to look at our renewables and see what capacity we have.”
The past few years have been difficult for BC’s clean energy sector impacted by a global economic downturn. However, proponents of wind, run-of-river hydro, solar, biomass and natural gas are now preparing to take full advantage of the BC government’s focus on jobs and encouragement of the provincial mining and resource sector, particularly in the northeastern part of the province. A major component of that focus is supporting the expansion of liquefied natural gas plants (LNG) for the Asian market; a development that grew so quickly it wasn’t even on the discussion table when Coleman took over the energy portfolio in March, 2011.
“The game has changed dramatically just in the last 18 months,” says Coleman.
Several major LNG projects are in the planning process. These include a massive $12 billion Shell LNG export terminal in Kitimat, a $4.7 billion Apache-led Kitimat LNG venture with Encana and EOG Resources, and BC LNG Export Co-Operative which is a joint venture of LNG Partners LLC of Houston and the Haisla Nation. Each plant requires massive amounts of electricity as part of the refrigeration process to liquefy and transport natural gas. The government estimates these projects will create up to 9,000 construction jobs, 800 long term jobs and generate more than $1 billion a year in government revenues. And Coleman has made it clear that the government is acting swiftly to move these massive projects forward.
“Liquefied natural gas under no way is going to be held back by a lack of electricity in British Columbia, which means I throw a major challenge out to all of the industry, including my major corporation, BC Hydro, to get pretty aggressive, pretty creative in a hell of a hurry.”
In the recently released draft BC Hydro Integrated Resource Plan, the crown corporation forecasts electricity demand in the province will grow by 50 percent in the next 20 years. BC Hydro intends to meet that demand through conservation efforts, new major projects such as the Site C dam, importing energy from outside the province, and most significantly to CEBC members, purchases of renewable energy from clean energy providers.
“It has to have a big piece of clean energy, and obviously that brings in your sector as partners in this.”
As the voice of the clean energy sector in BC, CEBC has been working behind the scenes for several years, ensuring the opportunity for private, renewable power was included in BC Hydro’s IRP. Much of this work was conducted by CEBC members on BC Hydro’s Technical Advisory Committee. With dramatically increasing energy capacity needs, the clean energy sector is poised to boom.
“The LNG and mine potential in northern BC is a marketplace game-changer creating a once in a generation lifetime opportunity for the clean energy sector,” says Donald McInnes, Chair, CEBC.
Rich Coleman also addressed concerns raised by the industry over speculation to burn natural gas to generate electricity in the short term; something the Gordon Campbell government had indicated was not an option.
“I hope it’s only a bridge to 100 percent renewable and sustainable,” says John Johnson of Clean Balance Power during a CEBC panel discussion following Coleman’s speech. The minister was also asked about this option to use natural gas.
“We’re trying to stay away as much as possible from having to use gas for power”.
With the first LNG plant scheduled for start-up in 2016 and a number of new resource mines in development or the planning stage, a massive amount of work is needed to provide electricity and infrastructure such as new transmission lines to supply the needed energy. The Clean Energy Act requires BC Hydro to present its plan on how to deliver the needed power by the end of the year. And Coleman says the province is seizing the opportunity with strong timelines so investors know BC can deliver.
“It may not look like the old power calls, because it’s going to be bigger, faster, it’s going to be aggressive and it’s going to mean more different things because obviously we’re changing BC’s future,” says Coleman.
Written by Mike Chisholm