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Charting B.C.’s energy pathway to 2050 – FortisBC has some ideas

June 11, 2021  By  Anthony Capkun

June 11, 2021 – According to FortisBC, the best way for British Columbia to achieve its GHG reduction goals is via a hybrid energy path that encompasses increased electrification and, yes, gas.

Energy Manager Canada attended a media briefing hosted by FortisBC, where the utility shared results from a report they commissioned through Guidehouse, an energy consultant agency. The report shows that by using the gas and electricity systems together, British Columbia can achieve its greenhouse gas emissions targets.

The first presenter, Doug Slater, VP of External & Indigenous Relations, recapped FortisBC’s Clean Growth Pathway to 2050 (a plan created in 2018), and highlighted the utility’s efforts toward helping its customers reduce emissions. For example, FortisBC invested approx. $85 million to help British Columbians reduce energy use.

On its pathway to 2050, Slater said the company will be tripling its investment in energy efficiency.

Hybrid model

Tyler Bryant, manager, Public Policy, took over from Slater to get into the nitty-gritty of the report, and reminded attendees that the diversified approach (electricity and gas) still includes a lot of electrification.

An important distinction, ultimately, is cost. Bryant noted that both pathways (full electrification versus diversified) eventually achieve the same GHG reduction by 2050, but the electric-only pathway would cost the province $100-billion more than the mixed pathway.

Peak demand in the Electrification Pathway would require thousands of megawatts of “firm renewable electricity generation and energy storage to be built”, reads the report, “which is made more difficult by the challenges of developing new large-scale hydroelectric power stations”.

Heat (for warmth) is the largest end use in the province, noted Bryant, adding that the need for heat is “peaky”, and that the coldest day in January 2020 easily exceeded the province’s electricity-generating capacity. Meantime, “the gas system still had headroom”.

The province would need to build out 8789 MW-worth of new electricity infrastructure for the electric-only path, said Bryant, whereas the mixed path would require only about 4900 MW-worth of new electricity infrastructure.

Plus, the diversified pathway does not involve “putting all our eggs in one basket”, Bryant noted.

On a final note, when speaking of gas, the speakers emphasized RNG (renewable natural gas). FortisBC aims to have enough contracts signed to have 10% RNG in its gas lines by 2025, Slater said, adding that ground has been broken on North America’s first wood-waste-to-RNG facility—a project in which it is involved.

Download the report “Pathways for British Columbia to achieve its GHG reduction goals” (PDF):

Guidehouse Report FortisBC June2021

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