Natural gas can now be counted as a source of clean energy, so long as it contributes to the liquefied natural gas industry, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said June 21 at an energy conference held by the province's business council.
Clark's announcement presents a new perspective on the province's Clean Energy Act, which stipulates that British Columbia generate at least 93% of its electricity from "clean or renewable" resources. These resources, as defined by the act, include biomass, biogas, geothermal heat, hydro, solar, ocean and wind, but also allows the option of "any other prescribed resource."
The province is now working to implement a regulation that would redefine natural gas as an energy source specifically for the purpose of liquefying natural gas, according to a spokesperson at the provincial Ministry of Energy and Mines. The targeted approach aims to enable the province to balance its goals for competitiveness, climate change and affordability, the ministry said.
By exporting LNG, British Columbia can help lower worldwide emissions by displacing other power sources in Asia, helping to achieve global greenhouse gas reductions, according to the ministry.
Industry welcomed the move, and Geoff Morrison, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers' manager of British Columbia operations, said he hoped to see the province issue official related regulations shortly.
"It's very positive news," Morrison said in a June 22 interview. "Industry is very pleased about it, because it creates an opportunity for British Columbia gas to be competitive."
Gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, Morrison said, and demand for energy in Asian countries is climbing quickly. If British Columbia - and Canada on the whole - can encourage these Pacific Rim nations to burn gas instead of coal, then the world overall will reap the environmental benefits of that switch, he said. But British Columbia has already identified a potential gap between power supply and demand if the province starts producing and exporting LNG, and while the BC Hydro and Power Authority has begun to develop a strategy to address the issue, Morrison noted that using more natural gas could help ease that problem.
Morrison acknowledged gas is not as clean and emissions-free as sources like hydro but said gas will help the province generate enough energy to contribute to global LNG production.
"The demand in Asia is going to be there whether or not British Columbia is a part of this," Morrison said. "We will work with government to make sure we make British Columbia LNG the cleanest source of LNG on the planet."
Copyright 2012 SNL Financial LC. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published June 29, 2012, in SNL Renewable Energy Weekly.)