The Trudeau government will help B.C. electrify the Peace region's natural gas sector through $680 million worth of electrification projects, to be jointly funded.
The province has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the federal government to commit to powering B.C.’s natural gas and liquefied natural gas sectors with clean electricity as a move toward the province meeting its climate change objectives.
B.C. Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement in Surrey August 29.
“Today’s agreement is not only crucial to B.C. meeting their climate change commitments on time, it will also position Canada as a supplier of the world’s cleanest natural gas,” Trudeau said.
The natural gas industry burns some of the gas it produces to power processing plants, pipelines, wells and other natural gas infrastructure. Switching to electricity – which in B.C. is nearly zero emission power, thanks to hydro, run-of-river and wind power – would take a significant bite out of the industry's greenhouse gas profile.
“We are going to be taking advantage of the abundant, clean, green energy we have here in British Columbia,” Horgan said.
Lowering the carbon profile of the natural gas industry is particularly important for B.C., now that it has both a nascent liquefied natural gas industry and a climate change plan that calls for a 40% GHG reduction in just 12 years. Fitting the former into the latter presents a serious challenge.
Some natural gas facilities in Northeastern B.C. are already electrified, thanks to the Dawson Creek-Chetwynd Area Transmission (DCAT) project. A second electrification project, the Peace Region Electricity Supply (PRES), is also under construction. The federal government is contributing $83.6 million towards the $298 million PRES project.
The MOU announced Thursday adds three more projects:
• the Bear Mountain to Dawson Creek Voltage Conversion Project;
• North Montney Power Supply Project; and
• the CleanBC Facilities Electrification Fund.
The latter will provide upstream natural gas producers with funding to help them tie into the grid.
The provincial government provided no estimates on how many GHGs may be avoided through the electrification projects. In a white paper last year, Clean Energy BC estimated that full electrification of the upstream and downstream for the natural gas and LNG industry could result in a 60% GHG reduction, although that would need to include natural gas pipelines and LNG plants. One major LNG project – Kitimat LNG - has committed to building LNG plants that would operate on electric drive.
Thursday's announcement was panned by the Sierra Club, given a luke-warm reception by the Pembina Institute and applauded by Clean Energy Canada.
Electrification of the natural gas industry “locks us into ongoing carbon pollution that will worsen the climate emergency,” said Caitlyn Vernon, a campaigner for the Sierra Club BC.
“Bringing electricity to B.C.’s gas fields is essential to reducing carbon pollution from upstream gas operations, so today’s commitment in support of electrification from both governments is a positive move,” said Karen Tam Wu, B.C. director for the Pembina Institute. “However, we must ensure that all developments, including LNG projects, do not undermine B.C.’s ability to meet its climate goals.”
“Today’s agreement between the federal and B.C. governments delivers on a critical component of B.C.’s climate plan,” said Clean Energy Canada executive director Merran Smith. "That is, electrifying natural gas projects, particularly in the Peace region—where demand for electricity is currently growing faster than anywhere else in the province."
As part of the MOU announced Thursday, Horgan and Trudeau announced that a new Canada-British Columbia Clean Power Planning Committee will be appointed. It will focus on advancing electrification projects. The committee will include representatives from BC Hydro and both the federal and provincial governments.
“Canadians know that economic growth and environmental protection go hand-in-hand,” Trudeau said. “Today, we are committing to work with British Columbia to help power the natural gas sector with clean electricity – reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating good middle class jobs and helping make the province a supplier of the cleanest natural gas in the world.”
This latest news is related to Ottawa’s April announcement that it is contributing $83.6 million to the building of a new transmission line that will increase access to clean power for the natural gas industry in the Peace region.
This amounts to a third of the total cost of the $289 million project; BC Hydro is kicking in the remaining $205.4 million.
The Government of B.C. released its provincial economic development, energy and climate strategy, called CleanBC, in December. The strategy is, in large part, focused on electrifying the natural gas sector to meet the province’s climate change commitments.
According to a federal government press release, the natural gas industry produces 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions in B.C.