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The Clean Energy Advantage

With its abundance of renewable energy, B.C. makes it easy for companies to meet their emissions-reduction targets.

Credit: Giant haul trucks at the Copper Mountain Mine near Princeton run on electric trolley lines. | Copper Mountain Mines

With its abundance of renewable energy, B.C. makes it easy for companies to meet their emissions-reduction targets.

Last year, at its open-pit mine outside Princeton, Copper Mountain Mining began replacing its fleet of diesel haul trucks with hybrid vehicles that carry their heaviest loads along a kilometrelong ramp equipped with electric trolley lines. The move proved timely: not only will it cut the mine’s carbon dioxide emissions by 30%—moving Copper Mountain towards its goal of net-zero emissions by 2035—it shielded the company from the jump in diesel prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The availability of funding and incentives from both BC Hydro and the provincial government’s CleanBC program made the firm’s decision that much easier.

A growing number of companies are looking at electrifying existing operations or moving operations to B.C. to take advantage of its almost emissions-free electrical supply. With BC Hydro’s help, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Canada’s largest port, is studying the feasibility of electrifying all its operations. Even natural gas producers in B.C.’s northeast are converting their pumps and processing systems to clean electricity to lower emissions and fulfil their climate commitments.

Credit: Hydra Energy is building the world’s largest hydrogen fuel station in Prince George, part of a network of stations to supply emissions-free green hydrogen for hybrid heavy-duty trucks. | Hydra Energy

“In B.C. we are very fortunate to have an ample, abundant supply of clean hydroelectricity,” says Diana Stephenson, senior vice-president of Customer and Corporate Affairs for BC Hydro, the government- owned electrical utility. Ninety-eight percent of the province’s electricity is generated from renewable sources. Unfortunately that still leaves almost 70% of the energy used in the province, for everything from transportation to home and commercial heating, to be supplied by fossil fuels. But perhaps not for long. The provincial government’s CleanBC Plan aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 40% by 2030. With the help of incentives, businesses and residents alike are making the switch to cleaner energy sources.

“Of our 25 largest customers here in British Columbia today, we know that three-quarters of them have aggressive ESG [environmental, social and governance] targets that they themselves need to meet in the coming years,” Stephenson says. In 2021 BC Hydro unveiled its Electrification Plan, which dedicated $260 million towards helping customers replace fossil fuel use with clean electricity. The utility is offering industrial users discounted rates, project funding and assistance with siting new facilities.

It’s also reaching out to businesses looking for clean sources to power their operations, such as data centres and hydrogen fuel producers. To use one example, Hydra Energy broke ground last year on what promises to be the world’s largest hydrogen refuelling station in Prince George. Part of a planned network across western Canada to supply hydrogen to diesel-hydrogen hybrid heavy-duty trucks, the facility will produce “green” hydrogen from water using two five-megawatt electrolysers.

Credit: BC Hydro is helping electrify the province’s highway system with charging stations even in remote locations. | BC Hydro

But can BC Hydro meet all these new demands for power and keep it green? “Right now we are in a good position from a supply perspective,” Stephenson says. Hydro’s 30 existing hydroelectric plants are projected to meet supply through 2030, and the Site C project under construction on the Peace River is expected to add a further 8% to the current supply when it comes online in 2025.

The utility maintains a rolling Integrated Resource Plan that anticipates load requirements for the next 20 years. It contains provisions should demand grow faster than forecast, such as energy efficiency measures and voluntary time-of-use rates. There is also potential for development of other renewable energy resources such as wind and solar that can be put into service more quickly than a hydro dam. Businesses putting down roots in B.C. can expect their renewable power to stay that way, in other words.

Credit: Wind farm on northern Vancouver Island.

You’ll hear a similar message from B.C.’s other major energy utility. FortisBC supplies hydro-generated electrical power to customers in parts of the southern Interior as well as natural gas provincewide. It too is working with customers to help them make the energy transition. This year, for example, FortisBC announced a successful pilot with Providence Health Care to install a high-efficiency thermal gradient header system at St. Vincent’s: Brock Fahrni, one of the hospital network’s long-term care homes in Vancouver. In addition to saving about $100,000 a year in heating costs, the system provides cooling that is increasingly necessary in seniors’ housing due to rising summer temperatures. With its savings, Providence opted to subscribe to Fortis- BC’s Renewable Natural Gas program that uses methane derived from biomass, bringing the facility’s net carbon emissions for heating and air conditioning close to zero. The hospital network is now looking to make similar upgrades in all its long-term care homes.

Credit: FortisBC helped the St. Vincent’s: Brock Fahrni seniors’ care home in Vancouver convert to renewable natural gas. | Fortis BC

In bringing about the switch to low-carbon, renewable energy, British Columbia is just getting started, and its resources are vast. “Now, more than ever, businesses in many jurisdictions, they’re experiencing energy instability. They’re experiencing price volatility. They’re experiencing a call to arms to step into a lower-carbon, electrified future and looking for tools and ways to do that,” BC Hydro’s Stephenson says. “We are in a particularly strong position of having clean energy and supporting our provincial government’s goal to step into this space.”

Download the full PDF of Invest in BC

Browse Invest in BC:

British Columbia: The Sustainable Advantage

First Nations Mean Business

­­­The Clean Energy Advantage

Lower Mainland-Southwest: Bullish Outlook

Vancouver Island/Coast: Fairer Shores

Thompson-Okanagan: Migrant Haven

Kootenay: Rooted in Community

Cariboo: Northern Crossroads

North Coast-Nechako: Export Driven

Northeast: Energizing BC