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Dear Editor: The plain truth about BC Energy

MLA Tom Shypitka in Victoria May 17, 2018. Photography by John Lehmann

As the Shadow Minister for Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation for the past seven years, I have seen an unravelling of our once proud and world leading energy production and natural resource extracting industries. The great quest to decarbonize our planet has been muddied with political ideology, misinformation, false promises, and politically driven climate targets.

The Clean Energy Act was passed by the former BC Liberal (now BC United) government in 2010. Then Premier Gordon Campbell had a vision for B.C. to become a leading North American supplier of “clean, renewable, low-carbon electricity.” This act would pave the way for B.C. to make unprecedented investments in renewable energy.

A couple highlights in the act was the provision that B.C. procure 93 per cent of its energy from “clean,” or renewable, resources. The act also contained a “self-sufficiency” clause, requiring B.C. to generate enough electricity in-province to meet its own needs, if water conditions are average or above-average.

Not one for putting all the eggs in the BC Hydro basket, the former government’s Clean Energy Act opened the door further for independent power projects to supply wind, solar and run-of-river electricity to the grid. This was regarded as an awesome display of energy partnerships between the public and private sectors. Many of these private partnerships were with Indigenous communities across the province.

When the BC NDP took charge in 2017, they did some remarkable things that eroded this great B.C. initiative. There were many things the NDP promised like stopping the Site C dam, using “every tool in the toolbox” to shut down the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, halting BC LNG, and using the carbon tax as a political slush fund for pet projects instead of rolling it all back to lower personal and corporate income tax.

However, the four things that stand out for me that won’t make the headlines are:

1) Walking away from the “self-sufficiency” clause by amending the Clean Energy Act

This change allows B.C. to import more cheap electricity from the USA even if we have sufficient reservoir levels here in B.C. The hypocrisy is that many jurisdictions that we buy cheap power from get the electricity from fossil fuels. The state of Wyoming, for example, gets its electricity mostly from coal-fired plants (71.1 per cent coal, 22.1 per cent wind, 4.3 per cent natural gas, 1.9 per cent hydroelectric and 0.5 per cent solar). Also, due to climate change and water shortages, B.C. could become a net importer rather than a net exporter, thus exposing B.C.’s vulnerability to an increasing spot market price for electricity.

2) Eliminating the “Standing Offer Program”

This program brought in 2008 by the former BC Liberal government was to provide independent power producers an opportunity to develop small-scale renewable energy projects. The BC NDP said we didn’t need these partnerships because we had a surplus of power thus preventing many Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities from getting off diesel power and becoming more self-reliant. Now that the NDP has been caught flat-footed in their mismanagement of energy production, they are scrambling to bring those partners back.

3) Condemning fossil fuels

As we all understand our need to decarbonize, it is the political division that has created a narrative that fossil fuels serve no purpose in the global transformation to lower global GHGs. B.C.’s vast reserves of natural gas for example can serve a major role in this transformation by taking developing world countries off highly carbon-intensive energy production such as wood, dung, and coal burning energy and replacing it with liquified natural gas. Additionally, B.C. can use natural gas to produce blue and turquoise hydrogen to replace gas, and diesel-powered transportation here at home, and green ammonia as an energy carrier to countries such as Japan. These fossil fuels also serve a major role in supplementing firm power to a rapidly developing intermittent power supply from renewable sources such as solar and wind as well as protecting our own national security. The global transition truly needs to be in tandem with all energy sources and B.C. can be a global leader in this regard.

4) Taking away our competitiveness

To be quite honest, B.C. was once the mining headquarters of the world with well over 1,200 mining head offices located in the province and most of those in Vancouver. That is no longer. Investment and the projects that go along with it are leaving in the billions of dollars. The tripling of the BC NDP’s carbon tax between now and 2030 will have devastating effects. This needs to be corrected immediately. To secure the critical minerals and metals in this province to decarbonize and build national security we must support our natural resource industry here in B.C.

BC United has developed a “Resource Prosperity Plan,” which is very comprehensive and will solve these issues. Just go to to learn more about it.

We all need to get past the political divisiveness surrounding our energy production, and finally realize that we all need one another to accomplish this important task. B.C. has world-class safety, environmental and human rights standards and is the obvious choice to lead as a responsible participant in building our energy needs for the future.

The NDP government, after two terms and seven years, has failed B.C. miserably in this partnership and has now placed our province in a vulnerable position of losing our self-reliance on energy and our global leadership role in reducing global greenhouse gases.


Tom Shypitka, MLA Kootenay East

Critic - Energy, Mines & Low Carbon Innovation

Carolyn Grant

About the Author: Carolyn Grant

I have been with the Kimberley Bulletin since 2001 and have enjoyed every moment of it.
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