Stories & Features

B.C. looks to clean electricity for a low-carbon future
B.C.'s oil and gas industry accounts for about 18% of B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions. BC Hydro is exploring the idea of a capital incentive to help customers switch production and processing operations from gas or diesel power to clean, renewable electricity.

BC Hydro starts to explore incentives & programs for switch to clean power

By 2050, B.C.'s goal is to reduce carbon emissions from current levels of 62.9 megatonnes a year to just 13 Mt. It's a tall order, but we have a great weapon on our side in clean, renewable hydroelectricity.

Around the world, countries with the "hydro advantage" are turning increasingly to expanded use of electricity  – from cars, to industrial processes, heat pumps and hot water heaters – to dramatically reduce the production of C02 emissions. Last year, the Norwegian government agreed to a goal of cutting the country's carbon emissions to net zero by 2030.

Canada's long-term GHG strategy is to find a way to reduce net emissions by 80% in 2050 from what they were in 2005. And the switch from fossil-fuel power to electricity for a variety of products and applications is seen as a key to reaching that target.

At BC Hydro, we're inspired by the growing role clean electricity will play in reducing carbon emissions. So with the recent regulatory green light from the Government of BC, we can now investigate incentives and programs that can help B.C. make the shift to clean power.

For 25 years, our energy management programs have helped our customers conserve energy. We now have an opportunity to help them reduce their emissions as well. We won't build an incentive that doesn’t make sense for customers like you. And we'll only launch programs if their cost-benefit, including revenue from the resulting purchases of electricity, adds up to a positive for BC Hydro ratepayers.

Where are the opportunities to 'electrify' B.C.?

One of the more exciting possibilities for CO2 emission savings is in the oil and gas industry, which produces about 18% of B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions. We’re exploring the idea of a capital incentive to help oil and gas customers switch their production and processing operations from gas or diesel power to clean, renewable electricity.

We'll also continue to make it easier for British Columbians to own and operate electric vehicles, including business owners who operate fleets of cars, trucks or vans. We've already installed 30 DC fast-charging stations around the province, and we're proactive in educating prospective buyers of electric vehicles about the costs and practicality of switching to electric.

Transportation, from the cars we use on our daily commutes, to commercial trucks, railways and aviation, accounts for about 37% of B.C.’s carbon emissions.

Residential and commercial buildings contribute about 10% of B.C.'s carbon emissions. We'll continue to work with our commercial customers to be smarter about energy use, and we’ll explore ways to help you reduce your home's carbon footprint. We'll likely be launching residential trials in the coming months so that we can first test various products and systems, such as heat pumps, that can cut carbon emissions while also increasing comfort.

Electric vehicle plugged into charger
Electric vehicles also play a large role and reducing carbon emissions in B.C. Transportation currently accounts for 37% of B.C.'s CO2 emissions.

Imagine the year 2050 if we leaned more heavily on our clean power

On a Monday morning in the summer of 2050, a young family in Chilliwack starts the day. Mom unplugs the electric car and motors off silently to work in Langley, dropping the two kids off at an art camp that features a studio powered by electricity generated by a solar roof. The car's battery is nearly full, despite the fact that, two days earlier, it powered the family home during a two-hour power outage.

It's going to be a hot one, so dad gets out early to cut the grass with a cordless electric mower, a real upgrade from the noisy, stinky, tool he remembers his dad using 30 years ago. Self-employed, he does a bit of work in his home office, which is cooled by a heat pump that does double duty, providing warmth to the home in the cooler months of the year.

After lunch, dad hops on his bike for a short ride to meet a client. And as afternoon temperatures hit 34°C, he runs an errand near Cultus Lake on the same bike, but this time switches on the bike's electric motor assist to get there faster and sweat-free. He's ahead of schedule, so joins a friend for an hour of wake surfing behind his buddy's electric-powered ski boat on Cultus Lake.

It's one of the hottest days on record, but the skies above Chilliwack are clear and blue, not like 35 years earlier, when yellow-orange smog produced by the cars, trucks and buses of a Greater Vancouver rush hour would blow east and get trapped in the Fraser Valley. That's because 80% of commuters in Metro Vancouver now rely on electric-powered rapid transit or electric cars.

Electric cars are now so common that there's only one lane on Highway 1 open to internal-combustion vehicles during rush hour. And it's very slow.

Climate change is happening, so it's time to act

The average temperature in B.C. rose about 1.4°C over the last century, and it's just the beginning. By 2050, B.C. is projected to be at least 1.3°C warmer, and could be as much as 2.7°C warmer, than in recent years. Rainfall could increase by anywhere from 2% to 12%, and both dry summers and extreme rain events are expected to be more frequent.

And 70% of B.C.'s glaciers could be gone by 2100.

"The impacts of climate change will become more pronounced as we head towards 2050," reads an excerpt from B.C.’s 2016 Climate Leadership Plan [PDF, 4 MB]. "That's why it's critical we continue to work to achieve our climate action goals. We must take action to mitigate these impacts today."

See also:

Amendments support climate leadership (BC Government info bulletin)