New government, new energy minister, new ministerial mandate

by Tom Hackney and Bill Andrews

17 January 2023

Policy Corner has taken a generally positive tone toward BC’s energy and climate action policies during John Horgan’s premiership, which began in 2017 and ended last fall, when he retired for health reasons.

Positive highlights of Horgan’s tenure include the CleanBC climate action plan (2018) and the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 (2021).  BC’s legislated GHG emissions reduction targets were re-affirmed, sectoral GHG reduction targets were announced, building energy measures were strongly incented, and the government promoted or required fuel switching from fossil fuels to low carbon electricity in buildings and light duty vehicles.

Granted, the government decided not to stop construction of the controversial Site C hydro-electric generation project (now 70% complete and due to be in service in 2025). The government has continued to support natural gas development and LNG exports. However, BCSEA’s overall assessment is that Horgan’s government made strong efforts to move BC toward a sustainable future.

Of course, much more must be done to achieve sustainability. BCSEA is very interested to see how the new government of Premier David Eby will balance the urgent need for climate action against all the other political demands it faces.

A hopeful early indication is in the Premier’s mandate letter to the new Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (MEMLCI), Josie Osborne. Eleven of her fourteen priorities relate to climate action or sustainable energy.

Highlights include:

  • Deliver the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 policies and programs on time and on target to support BC’s legislated GHG reduction targets,
  • Develop targeted programs to support clean energy and efficiency upgrades for low-income and rental housing,
  • Work to maximize BC’s production of clean energy for domestic use and export,
  • Support BC Hydro’s Electrification Plan,
  • Support opportunities for First Nations to develop electricity projects,
  • With the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, complete the Clean Transportation Action Plan,
  • Work with the BC Utilities Commission regarding its role to support BC’s clean energy transition (see BCUC Wants More Power over BC’s Energy Transition, Policy Corner, 11 July 2022),
  • Continue work on the new oil and gas royalty system to replace “outdated and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,”
  • Find opportunities to switch fossil fuel subsidies to the clean tech and clean energy sectors.

None of these action priorities is especially new. However, Premier Eby is showing good intentions on most of the relevant points. A possible weakness is the ambiguous commitment on the oil and gas royalty regime. BCSEA would prefer to see a stronger signal that the government was coming to grips with the large volumes of fossil fuels that BC is producing and exporting. But this is progress from the days when Rich Coleman was Minister of Natural Gas Development!

Minister Osborne is replacing Bruce Ralston as head of MEMLCI. Ralston held the post from 2020. BCSEA looks forward to engaging with Minister Osborne and the new government. BCSEA calls for the government to introduce legislation to implement the hard cap on GHG emissions from BC’s natural gas utilities that is promised in the Roadmap to 2030.