Editorial: Fossil fuels’ renewable future

Disruption in the oilfields should be driving innovation in B.C.’s energy sector.

Embracing that opportunity could help patch some of the holes in the province’s liquefied natural gas bubble, because, as Canadian energy expert Peter Tertzakian recently told CFA Society Vancouver, the magnitude of energy substitution from renewable sources and the push to decarbonize the energy grid is unprecedented.

B.C.’s top opportunity here: renewable energy cannot do it alone. Fossil fuels as an energy source in power generation, transportation and other arenas are not going anywhere any time soon – especially cleaner fossil fuel options such as natural gas.

DNV GL, a global energy-sector consultancy, sees natural gas being an ideal partner for renewables because it can supply power grids with the baseload electricity that intermittent renewable sources can’t.

Renewable energy use continues to increase. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast that, over the next five years, it will remain the world’s fastest-growing source of electricity, although its share of that market will still be only 28% in 2021 compared with 23% in 2015.

But there is far more than opportunity in power generation for natural gas. Commercial transportation, which accounts for an estimated 24% of greenhouse gas emissions in B.C., is a vast and largely untapped market domestically and internationally. The provincial government’s move to incorporate natural gas into BC Ferries’ vessels is long overdue, and last week’s announcement of a $43 million government partnership to help develop clean-energy projects and technologies is welcome.

B.C. should also be investing in energy efficiency technologies and procedures because, as the IEA has pointed out, 70% of the world’s energy use currently “takes place outside any efficiency performance requirements.” Climate change imperatives will change that, and disruption in the oilfields will provide more opportunities to bridge the gap between fossil fuel reliance and renewable energy sources that will drive more industry and more of the economy itself.