Changing the conversation on energy transitions


For too long in Canada, the discourse around low-carbon energy solutions has been split between natural gas and renewable energy. The arguments provided for both sides are valid and important, and both are critical to our economy. It is precisely for these reasons that the dialogue surrounding an “and-or” approach to energy transitions must change. In order for B.C. to move ahead with finding the best energy solutions for our economy and environment, we must consider an “and-more” approach.

Natural gas plays an important role in the future of B.C.’s economy. The jobs created by this industry are crucial to the whole of northeast B.C., including many First Nations. This industry has been integral to job creation and prosperity, but it also has an important role to play in the global transition to a lower-carbon economy. Natural gas has a lower-carbon footprint than other forms of energy, such as coal, and with an abundant supply of economically recoverable reserves and the ease of transportation, natural gas may be the solution to fuel our homes, transportation networks and economy both at home and on foreign shores. There is no other energy source that can match this lower-carbon footprint that can also be transported to growing overseas markets.

The road to transitioning B.C. and Canada to a lower-carbon economy will have its challenges, many of which we may not be able to foresee. However, it is clear that greenhouse-gas emissions must decline and that hydrocarbons have an important role to play in this transition. Renewable energy resources play a role in reducing these emissions. When considered as a holistic approach to lower-carbon solutions and clean-energy sources, an equation of natural gas and renewable energy sources is complementary and helps enable the success and deployment of each energy resource.

This is being shown in the work taking place to electrify upstream natural gas extraction in the northeast of B.C. There, renewable energy is not only contributing to the natural gas industry, but local governments are also playing an important and active role in making this collaboration possible. By combining these two types of energy resources in activities such as these, industry is successfully reducing the carbon footprint of natural gas in B.C.

Transitioning to a low-carbon economy requires our province to identify less carbon-intensive sources of energy and develop them sustainably, as well as leverage the skills and knowledge of our workforce to bring these solutions to fruition.

In the 20 years to 2014, resource capital investment in B.C. amounted to $100 billion — second only to housing. Much of this was in natural gas and it translated directly into innovation and foundational job roles in the energy value chain.

British Columbians have an extraordinary opportunity to lead and shape the conversation around this transition. We have great examples to look to, not just in the petroleum industry, but also in other sectors such as forestry. B.C. companies have been at the forefront of developing biofuels and cogeneration of biomass energy — they are true innovators and their stories need to be told.

There is no simple fix to this transition. It will mean examining and reinvesting in our energy infrastructure and leaving the old “and-or” energy equation in the past, instead looking forward to find “and-more,” win-win solutions. We need these solutions to help develop our resources and bring them to market, to create new technology and know-how that we can export, and to create prosperity and jobs in communities across our province. B.C’s resource economy may be hard to see, but its unmatched job-creating force continues to make it the engine of our economy.

Transitioning to a lower-carbon economy is not as simple as turning off hydrocarbons and switching on renewable energy. Residents of B.C. must be informed about the complex implications of energy decisions and join in the public conversation to transition our province and nation to cleaner, sustainable solutions.

Story: Vancouver Sun