March 27, 2024 | The Tyee via UVic News

In the quest for a low-carbon future, British Columbia grapples with its reliance on natural gas. The province’s climate objectives are under the microscope, with FortisBC’s plan being hailed as a promising first step by regulators. However, the transition from gas to electricity in new BC buildings is not without its challenges.

The introduction of the Zero Carbon Step Code for new residential buildings marks a significant shift. Yet, the BC Utilities Commission has rejected FortisBC’s proposal to supply renewable-branded gas to all new buildings. The decision stems from concerns over price discrimination and the higher costs associated with renewable natural gas.

Dr. Kevin Palmer-Wilson, a postdoctoral fellow at UVic’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) and the Institute for Integrated Energy Systems (IESVic), offers valuable insights into BC’s energy future. His 2022 study, accessible via UVicSpace, suggests that both the renewable gas pathway and the electric pathway could be cost-effective, contingent on the availability of renewable gas. This finding is pivotal in the context of BC’s climate goals and the ongoing debate about the role of gas in a low carbon future.

The article also underscores the difficulties in securing an adequate supply of renewable gas. Some of FortisBC’s prospective suppliers have yet to initiate the permit application process. Palmer-Wilson’s study proposes a blend of hydrogen and a fraction of renewable natural gas to meet demand, although safety concerns about this mix persist.

Tyler Bryant, a strategic advisor for FortisBC, co-authored the study with Palmer-Wilson. Their collaboration and research contribute to a wider discourse on the feasibility and safety of renewable gas in BC’s energy future. The implications of these findings, particularly in relation to BC’s climate goals and the role of gas, are explored in depth in the article.

For those interested in delving deeper into Palmer-Wilson’s research, check out UVicSpace, the University of Victoria’s institutional repository.