Gov’t aims for power growth

By Steve Thomson

On the energy front, for example, we need to attract more investment in what we see as a major, long-term, strategic opportunity for British Columbia. 

While we may see ups and downs, we expect global and domestic demand for lower-carbon and renewable energy will continue to grow. 

In B.C., demand for electricity is expected to grow by as much as 40 per cent over the next 20 years. A similar trend is expected world-wide. 

And due to growing consumer and political demand across the world, renewable sources will continue to displace non-renewables energy. 

Even with non-renewables, as global natural gas reserves continue to expand, we expect gas will further displace more carbon-intensive fuels like coal and oil. 4 

It is clear there are few places on Earth as well positioned as British Columbia to take advantage of these global trends. 

We have world-class natural gas reserves. 

Northeast B.C.’s potential for shale gas is staggering the Horn River basin alone could contain between 500 and 1,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the ground. 

To put this into context, the United States consumes about 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year. 

With this potential, it is expected B.C. could triple its natural gas production in the next decade. 

And we are equally blessed with enormous untapped renewable energy potential, including wind, tidal, solar, geothermal, run-of-river and biomass. 

In fact, we have 143,900 gigawatt hours of potential clean energy supply in B.C. 

That’s more than twice what we currently produce. 

Our vision is to harness this potential and make B.C. a clean energy powerhouse. 

We want B.C. to be the leading North American supplier of clean, reliable, low-carbon electricity and technologies. 

To achieve this, it was clear that we needed focus and we needed a critical mass of activity and investment – both public and private. 

That’s why this government passed the Clean Energy Act. 

Introduced less than a year ago, in April 2010, the Clean Energy Act sets out 16 energy objectives, ranging from conservation to greenhouse gas reduction, to fostering jobs and opportunities for rural communities and First Nations. The legislation commits B.C. to electricity self-sufficiency by 2016 and to having at least 93 per cent of electricity generated in B.C. comes from clean or renewable sources. 

Combined, these two objectives alone create significant new demand for clean energy power production. 

And to help us meet that demand, we will continue to streamline process and incentives to encourage investment in clean power production. 

One such method is the “One Project, One Process” system .

The approach will significantly improve project time lines, reduce costs and help us make better decisions for industry, communities, First Nations and the environment. And timely, predictable project approvals will get suitable projects off the planning paper and into the communities who need them faster.

Steve Thomson is the provincial energy minister and minister in charge of the natural resource operations ministry.

These remarks come from a February 2011 speech given to members of the BC Chamber of Commerce.