Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and Clean Energy BC see eye-to-eye on many things.
They agree, for example, that if B.C. hopes to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions targets, it will require aggressive and widespread electrification of the economy, including the built environment and the transportation sector.
“If we are to meet our legislated targets, we will be doing so with clean energy,” Weaver said, Thursday June 14 at the association’s first-ever Global Electrification Summit.
But they parted company on one critical point, when Weaver, who was a keynote speaker, expressed disappointment with the association for advocating for the electrification of the natural gas and LNG industry.
“It is inconsistent to talk about LNG here and talk about climate here,” he said. “The fact that it is discussed in an organization like Clean Energy BC makes me shake my head wondering what’s going on.
“How can Clean Energy BC seriously move down the path towards talking about LNG and the opportunity for electrification of the LNG industry?
“Clean Energy BC, I implore you talk about the electrification of the vehicular sector, the introduction of a ZEV standard, which hopefully we’ll see in the coming year, the push towards electrification of transportation, of buildings, but not electrification in the downstream reduction of new LNG.”
Weaver was referring to Clean Energy BC’s advocacy for the electrification of both the upstream natural gas sector and liquefied natural gas plants.
For the independent power producers that Clean Energy BC represents, industrial electrification of the gas sector could be the single biggest new market, in terms of demand for private sector power.
The demand for private power projects like wind and run-of-river dropped off sharply with the approval of the Site C hydro-electric dam.
But Clean Energy BC sees a golden opportunity with LNG. Jae Mather, Clean Energy BC’s executive director, said there is no way B.C. can develop an LNG industry and meet its climate change targets – on that the association and Weaver agree.
“It is inconsistent to continue to dream that we can build a two-train or four-train LNG facility in Kitimat and meet a 40% reduction by 2030,” Weaver said. “It’s just simply not possible.”
But Clean Energy BC believes that it could be accomplished, if B.C. electrified the entire industry, from wellhead to LNG plant. Doing so would require a massive amount of electricity – about five or six times more than the Site C dam will provide.
B.C.’s climate action plan requires a 40% reduction on GHGs below 2007 levels by 2030.
But as Mather points out, B.C.’s population and economy are expected to continue to grow, adding more emissions, which means the actual reductions required will be even higher than 40%.
Add to that a large LNG project, and it becomes even more difficult – unless the entire sector is electrified.
Done conventionally, the LNG Canada plant will add about 7 million tonnes of CO2 per year, Mather said. An “extensive” electrification of the sector – from upstream wells to pipelines and plant – would take a significant bite out of those emissions.
“Then we can reduce those emissions by as much as 72%,” Mather said. “If we did full electrification – extensive electrification – you’d be looking at about 1,430 megawatts of power production needed, which is about 9,400 gigawatt hours. That’s way more than Site C’s 5,100. So that’s 14% increase in B.C.’s electricity requirements to do that.”
While the provincial government does have plans to electrify the gas fields of northwestern B.C., the LNG Canada plant, as approved, does not intend to use electric drive.
So whatever other gains need to be made in B.C. through electrification may have to come from buildings and transportation.
Fortunately, for B.C., it not only has abundant clean power, it also has experienced private power developers and a number of high-tech companies that are producing the kinds of vehicles and batteries that are needed to facilitate the transition.
Corvus Energy, for example, has become a global leader in supplying vessels, like ferries, with large-scale battery power. Sharc Energy Systems makes a heat reovery system that recovers heat energy from waste water in buildings.
GreenPower is a Vancouver company that designs all-electric buses. And Electrica Mechanica Vehicles Corp. has built what may be the world’s cutest electric car – the single-seat Solo.
When it comes to adopting some of its own technology, however, Canada has been laggard, according to GreenPower director Dave Richardson.
China is the leader in electric bus adoption. Of the 385,000 e-buses on the road globally in 2017, 99% were in China, he said, where e-buses make up 17% of its bus fleet,
Adoption of e-buses in the U.S. by contrast is low compared with China and many European countries, and it’s even lower in Canada.
“Sadly, Canada does not even register on the chart,” Richardson said. “We have some work to do.”
But on the same day that Clean Energy was hosting its conference, Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced new regulations for heavy duty vehicles – school buses, transport trucks, delivery vans – that will require them to move to lower or zero emission propulsion.
And if that isn’t enough to convince fleet operators to switch from gas and diesel to something cleaner, rising gas and diesel prices might.
While e-buses are more expensive to buy upfront, it’s expected they will be on par or lower in cost than diesel buses within about six years, and the fuel and maintenance costs are magnitudes lower.
One of the problems for the wider adoption of electric vehicles is still the availability of fast charging stations.
FortisBC, which is primarily known for being in the natural gas business, is also an electricity provider in the Interior of B.C. In pockets of B.C. where there are no charging stations, FortisBC is planning to install them – in places like the East Kootenays.
“We think there’s a role in the utility in putting infrastructure into those places which might not otherwise be able to be supported,” said Dave Bennett, director of external relations for FortisBC.
To meet its climate targets through electrification, however, Mather said B.C. is going to need more regulatory tools, such an ZEV (zero emission vehicle) mandate, which sets minimum EV sales targets for manufacturers and dealers.
B.C. also needs regulations for buildings, he said.
“If we want to electrify our heating systems, we actually need to transition to say that new buildings have heat pumps,” Mather said.
Air-based heat pumps are basically reverse air conditions that use small amounts of electricity and heat exchangers to turn cold air hot.
“If we had about a 30% conversion of buildings by 2020 to heat-pumps – this is existing and some new buildings – you’d be looking at an extra 21% requirement of our electricity grid,” Mather said.