LNG Canada recently announced that construction is moving ahead with a $40 billion liquid natural gas project in Northern British Columbia. Accepting this project means that extensive electrification must be adopted across every sector to meet our GHG emission targets. British Columbia must also seize the opportunity to extensively electrify the existing fossil fuel infrastructure as much as possible. Although LNG has relatively lower carbon emissions compared to coal and oil, it is still a fossil fuel and leakage (fugitive emissions) is a significant issue. Electrification of the distribution system reduces on-site burning of gas to power the system, while also reducing leakage. Clean Energy BC’s white paper, Electrification of BC, shows that extensive electrification of the upstream, distribution, and downstream LNG could reduce the total emissions of a conventional LNG process by as much as 65%.
LNG Canada is proposing many novel and innovative technologies aimed at reducing emissions. Even if LNG meets these targets, extensive electrification could further reduce the total emissions of the entire process by approximately 59%. With the two proposed trains (liquefaction and purification facilities) permitted and confirmed, it is not possible for them to be electrically powered (E-Drive). However, the two additional trains are likely to follow and it is possible they could be electrified in addition to the distribution and upstream elements of the project.
For this province to thrive, British Columbia must now push the boundaries and create the lowest-carbon LNG on the global market. British Columbia needs renewables to support the LNG industry; working in tandem is the only way to meet our climate targets and deliver low-carbon LNG. It’s not about LNG or renewable energy systems, it’s LNG AND renewable energy.
The province’s independent private sector power producers are ideally positioned to deliver the infrastructure needed to provide this electricity; including that needed to electrify the natural gas sector and proposed LNG industry. These companies build projects for 25 to 40-year lifespans. Their contributions will ensure British Columbia delivers on its greenhouse gas reduction commitments.
Looking into the near future, value-added products and commodities produced with very low-carbon electricity will be highly marketable. These products and commodities will help ensure British Columbia’s LNG industry can manage the changes to come with a global low-carbon economy.
Committing to this LNG project and its additional GHG emissions, the opportunity to electrify our transportation, buildings and industry is the only way we can meet our targets. Fossil fuels currently play a leading role in our society and economy as they supply two-thirds of British Columbia’s energy needs (electricity provides the other third). Even with the most ambitious energy-efficiency policies and demand-side-management programs, British Columbia would need to greatly expand electricity production and distribution.
Electrification can grow the economy, keep energy prices affordable, create jobs, and increase resiliency to climate impacts. An electrified economy takes advantage of more efficient ways to use energy. For instance, for every 1 kW of the energy used in an electric car, 1.71 kW of energy is required when that car is fueled by gasoline.
Over the past decade, the costs to produce electricity from wind, solar, geothermal, marine, and run-of- river hydro have dropped significantly. A recent wind-power auction in Alberta demonstrated that wind is now the nation’s most cost-effective source of new electricity. While many renewable sources are variable-output energy sources, energy storage technologies are steadily improving and BC Hydro’s existing large hydro storage plants can provide an effective back-stop. Currently in British Columbia, the cost of wind and solar is about $50-60/MW with prices expecting to drop over the next 5 years to around $45/MW.
For the success of extensive electrification, it is vital to speed up the process of connecting remote facilities and industrial customers to the grid. Electrification needs to be done in a way that addresses Indigenous rights and conservation values like sensitive habitats.
Extensive electrification is essential for BC to meet our climate targets and would require increasing BC’s production of renewable energy by as much as 50% to meet the 2030 GHG targets; and by as much as 100% to meet the 2050 targets. Every tonne of increase in GHGs associated with an LNG facility means that an additional tonne of GHG savings have to be found somewhere else. It will need to come from industry, buildings and transportation. Other than conservation, which has a role to play but it is still fairly minor, electrification is the only major current solution. There has 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.
Clean Energy BC