Message from our Board Director, John Calimente

British Columbia and the rest of the world are in the early stages of a massive shift towards electrification with renewable energy. Most of the technologies are now commercially available that will allow buildings, transportation, and industry to electrify in order to reach our goal of a 100% sustainably powered province.

In 2023 alone there will be over USD 1.7 trillion invested in clean technologies worldwide, greater than investment in the fossil fuel industry. As one indication of things to come, the Canadian federal government is planning to eliminate more than $1 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies for fossil fuel production by the end of this year. The B.C. government will be establishing a clean energy and major projects office to fast track investment in clean energy and technology. The transformation is underway.

B.C. has an abundance of natural resources that will easily allow an expansion of electricity capacity and a complete switch from fossil fuels to renewables: wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, ocean energy. While our province’s hydroelectric capacity is great, it is still not enough. To electrify everything we need to produce even more renewable energy and lots of it. BC Hydro is currently preparing a call for more power by the spring of next year. The estimate is additional 3,000 gigawatt hours per year of renewable energy as early as 2028, with much of the electrification for the LNG and fossil gas sectors (while they’re still around). That’s only 5 years away!

Wind power has so far made the biggest impact among the 2nd generation of renewables. A number of wind farms were created by independent power producers (IPPs) after the 2002 BC Energy Plan was developed, but that ended with the approval of the Site C dam. Natural Resources Canada has a handy Wind Turbine Map that shows every wind turbine across Canada. Compare us to the east coast of Canada to see how much we need to catch up. But with the new call for power coming in 2024 from BC Hydro, the wind industry will likely be the biggest beneficiary as it is the most developed and its costs have been dropping significantly.

As seen in Ready Solar’s Solar Power British Columbia Guide, B.C.’s solar energy potential ranks only 11th out of all the provinces and territories, with an average solar system producing about 1004 kWh/kW per year. But this is still a valuable energy source to be tapped, as many local companies are demonstrating. Roost Solar has completed the largest solar installation on a farm in the province, with 438 panels and an output of 152 kW. And Charge Solar is now working to complete a solar PV array project and battery energy storage system with the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation with the potential to offset over 70,000 liters of diesel consumption annually.

But the largest number of projects will be smaller residential rooftop solar installations similar to the 5kW to 20kw systems of Ocean Volt Solar & EV or Kootenay Solar. The beauty of rooftop solar is that it truly is ‘set it and forget it’ – once installed it can provide power for at least 25 years and probably much longer, more than paying back its initial investment. It will not only save money for households that install them but also reduce reliance on fossil gas generation to meet summer peak electricity demand. Expanded rooftop solar would also greatly reduce the need for new electricity grid infrastructure. Time to increase incentives?

B.C.’s geothermal resources are its largest as-yet-untapped source of renewable energy. Canada is currently the only Pacific Rim country to not produce any energy from geothermal sources. The Garibaldi Volcanic Belt is a particularly promising belt of volcanic rock for geothermal development, given that it is located just to the north of Metro Vancouver. The First Nations are leaders in geothermal development as well. By next year, a former fossil gas field in Clarke Lake will become one of the first geothermal electricity production facilities in the country, creating up to 15 MW of geothermal energy for the Fort Nelson and Saulteau First Nations, enough for 14,000 homes. Not only will it reduce emissions by completely replacing gas fired generation, it will provide a source of sustainable revenue with minimal additional investment. Another project in the Haida Gwaii by the Kitselas First Nation will replace fossil gas with geothermal resources in industrial applications.

And finally there is ocean energy, both tidal and wave power, for which B.C. has some of the best resources in the world. The provincial government has identified at least 6,000 MW of wave energy and 2,000 MW of tidal energy potential. While Nova Scotia has a big lead in tidal power generation, there are local companies like Yourbrook Energy Systems working to develop a large tidal power paddlewheel prototype. In terms of wave power, it was only 6 years ago that the West Coast Wave Initiative first produced detailed assessment of our coastal waves. The first wave energy project likely to be constructed will be the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation’s wave energy project which will create a renewable energy microgrid at Yuquot on Nootka Island.

For anyone interested in sustainable energy, this is an amazing time to belong to the BC Sustainable Energy Association. If you’re a sustainable energy professional interested in being part of a network of action-takers supporting sustainable energy policy, innovation and education in British Columbia, please consider joining our Board of Directors. You will help make a difference!