Artist’s rendering of the Site C dam, the third hydro dam on the Peace River that started construction in 2015. (BC Hydrophoto)

FortisBC outlines renewable energy plan blueprint

Sees $100 billion savings in diversified approach rather than electrification option

One of B.C.’s major public utilities has outlined how the province can achieve a 30 per cent energy use reduction by 2030.

FortisBC says the province faces either electrification or diversified energy pathways to reach omissions reduction targets set by the province and is coming out in favour of the diversified option.

“We don’t feel it a choice between gas or electric to optimize our energy system, we need both rolling at the same time in the same direction to meet the province’s 80 per cent energy reduction target by 2050,” said Tyler Bryant, low carbon energy and policy manager for FortisBC.

Bryant was among a team of FortisBC officials who presented an energy use vision for the future last Friday (June 4) which will impact homeowners, commercial businesses and the transportation industry.

That vision was reinforced by a study conducted by Guidehouse Inc. commissioned by Fortis, over an 18-month period from 2019 to 2020, which sided with the diversified pathway as the best option to meet greenhouse gas reduction demands.

“B.C. is a unique place that we know very well having operated as a public utility in this province for more than 100 years,” said Bryant.

“We have a unique energy system so where we go from here, what might work elsewhere is not going to work here. We need to set our own blueprint.”

Bryant said both pathways face challenges – massive energy infrastructure deployment and significant technological improvements.

“There are no free lunches here. Decarbonizing the B.C. economy will be challenging… we really need all hands on deck to produce as much clean energy as we can.”

But he said the Guidehouse study concluded the overall cost of diversified energy pursuits is $100 billion less than the electrification option.

He added electrification will require new large-scale hydroelectric power station infrastructure and energy storage capabilities to meet peak demand periods, noting the current Site C project will quickly max out its energy supply capabilities shortly after 2030.

“This means building out the provincial electricity system by about two-thirds more than what we have today to meet peak load power demands and electrify our building heating needs,” Bryant said.

But with challenges come opportunities, Bryant stressed, noting B.C. already has an extensive hydroelectric energy source supply, a forestry sector that produces biomass waste which can be re-utilized as renewable energy and potential to further develop a liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.

Along with infrastructure, Bryant said the technology of new energy products, such as high-efficiency natural gas heat pumps to generate heat and hot water, energy-efficient new building and retrofit energy-saving concepts and both electric, natural gas and other renewable energy powered vehicles that reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

“The key point here is we maintain that the use of a gas system is not incompatible with long-term greenhouse gas reduction goals. We hear concerns about being locked into a higher emission gas system, but we flip that idea on its head with the idea of a gas delivery system as significant reduction potential built into it which we feel we can utilize,” he said.

“Fortis is positioned to contribute with either of these pathway options…but we just feel with the diversified approach we are not putting all our energy eggs in one basket.”

READ MORE: Letter – Renewable energy options are cost-effective

READ MORE: Columnist – Renewable energy far better than fossil fuels

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