It’s great that Premier Christy Clark recently reaffirmed our province’s commitment to the Western Climate Initiative and the Carbon Tax. They’re good policies and we need to stick with them. Unfortunately, they do not appear to be part of a bigger vision for transforming this province’s economy away from its growing dependence on natural gas extraction and processing.
In a recent Vancouver Sun story, the premier underscored how the sector is pretty much keeping the lights on in our emergency rooms:
Every heart operation in this province is paid for by oil and gas out of the northeast …. Boy, you want a health care system, you better be damn happy we’re getting oil and gas out of the northeast, because that’s what’s paying for it.
Thanks to a variety of royalty-based incentives and regulatory changes wrapped up as the 2009 Oil and Gas Stimulus Program, the sector is booming. According to the Budget and Fiscal Plan – 2010/11 to 2012/11, the province expects natural gas royalties will soar from $698 Million this year to a forecast $1.2 Billion by 2012/2013 (see page 12).
And there’s more where that came from. According to a recent report by the National Energy Board and B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines, the northeast potentially contains 78 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to fuel Canada’s entire existing needs for 26 years. (Don’t hold your breath hoping for “peak gas” to kick in anytime soon.)
What does this mean for our climate leadership? Well, a 2010 analysis by Mark Jaccard concluded that completion of just one of the natural gas processing plants in the region would blow away any chance we have of reaching our climate-pollution goals. So much for keeping your car tires properly inflated.
The Premier is has a point, though. The public revenue has to come from somewhere. What’s the alternative? Well, I look to the province’s thriving clean tech sector.
The KPMG B.C. Clean Tech Report Card, commissioned by the British Columbia Cleantech CEO Alliance and released this week, notes that the province has one of the most vibrant cleantech clusters in North America. We have more than 200 “pure play” technology companies, employing over 8,000 people and generating $2.5 billion in revenues annually, primarily from exports. These are companies involved solely in the research, development or deployment of technological innovations in energy generation, energy transmission and storage, energy use in transportation, energy efficiency, and resource management.
Many of BC’s cleantech companies are recognized international leaders, competing for and winning business around the world. It’s also a very young, fast growing sector – over two-thirds of the companies did not exist ten years ago.
With the right policies, B.C. could be the silicon valley of clean-tech. The report recommends a number of options for government.
The role of government in supporting and encouraging emerging cleantech clusters cannot be understated. Programs such as Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credits, Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), the federal Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and Innovative Clean Energy (ICE) Fund and the revenue neutral Carbon Tax have provided welcome support for the industry; however, there is more to be done to improve BC’s competitiveness as a destination for cleantech businesses and capital.
Pssst…. Christy: Fracking isn’t our future. Families and investors alike are very keen to transition B.C. into a green economy. Where’s the stimulus program for that?