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Vol. 12, No. 30 Week of July 29, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Getting serious about clean energy

British Columbia wants zero greenhouse gas emissions from power plants; no flaring in oil and gas fields; energy conservation

Alan Bailey

Petroleum News

It’s abundantly clear where British Columbia’s government, led by Premier Gordon Campbell, stands when it comes to clean energy.

“We have always been vigilant about the environment and look after it more and more each day,” Richard Neufeld, the Canadian province’s minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, told a Resource Development Council audience in Anchorage on July 20.

Neufeld outlined an energy plan that the British Columbia government has been developing and implementing since Campbell’s British Columbia Liberal Party came to power in the province in 2001. That plan contains 55 “policy actions” that Neufeld characterized as covering the topics of environmental leadership; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; achieving energy security for the province; and encouraging investment in innovative energy solutions.

33 percent reduction

But the theme of reduced greenhouse gas emissions seems to permeate all of these topics: the B.C. government has set a target of reducing these emissions by 33 percent by 2020, Neufeld said.

“We know that’s a challenge,” Neufeld said. “We’re actually dealing with industry … to figure out how we can actually reach that target in a realistic way.”

Industries such as oil and gas, mining and agriculture are all critically important to the province, but the use of modern and emerging technologies will enable people to achieve the emission reduction targets, Neufeld said.

“There are ways that we can actually do things differently and still maintain our core economy,” Neufeld said.

For example, the B.C. government will not allow any carbon dioxide emissions from any new coal-fired power stations.

“If you want to build a coal plant you need to have 100 percent sequestration,” Neufeld said. “Sequestration is real. It’s coming. There’s lots of technology around sequestration.”

90 percent hydropower

However, British Columbia currently obtains 90 percent of its electrical power from hydropower. The province wants to expand its hydropower capacity, to help re-establish an electrical power self-sufficiency that it enjoyed a few years ago. And the government is looking into new sources of electricity, such as tidal power and wind generation, Neufeld said.

But most of British Columbia’s remaining 10 percent of electrical power comes from natural gas-fueled power stations — the province’s energy plan has set a target of the year 2016 for the elimination of greenhouse gases from these plants.

And the government wants to see gas flaring reduced by half in the province’s oil and gas fields by 2011; flaring must be eliminated by 2016.

British Columbia’s huge coal resources are associated with major potential for the development of coalbed methane. The B.C. government sees water production as the most serious environmental issue related to coalbed methane development, Neufeld said. The energy plan requires any coalbed methane development to use modern technologies that reinject all produced water below any domestic water aquifer.

Energy conservation

But the B.C. government sees energy conservation as a key factor in both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in achieving self-sufficiency in electrical power. Conservation initiatives outlined in the B.C. energy plan include the implementation of energy-efficient building standards, the development of an industrial energy efficiency program and the investigation of new utility rate structures that encourage conservation.

The B.C. government also wants to encourage investment in innovative ways of supplying energy, Neufeld said.

“We are out there looking at things we can do in any industry,” Neufeld said.

Although investment in new technology is “a dangerous place for government to go,” the government would like to help promising initiatives, Neufeld said. And according to the energy plan the government is implementing strategies for the development of technologies that include bioenergy; the use of waste sawdust and timber; and the use of hydrogen and fuel cells.

The government has also established an Innovative Clean Energy Fund, financed from a 0.4 percent levy on non-transportation-use sales of electricity, natural gas, grid propane and fuel oil. The fund will help finance initiatives that alleviate energy supply issues for remote rural communities in the province, Neufeld said. And according to fund documentation, the fund will also help to address “advancing conservation technology to commercial application,” find ways to convert vehicles to cleaner fuels, increase the efficiency of power transmission and expand the opportunities for using alternative fuels.

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