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Launch of BC’s net-zero strategy sees role for Vancouver cleantech
The federal policy document outlines priorities for the province to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, extract natural resources, and build new jobs.
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The global race to net-zero is an economic opportunity as much as it is an existential one — and Vancouver’s tech ecosystem has the rare potential to be a world-leading hub for solutions, innovation, and investment. Canada’s recently-released priorities for the province’s natural resources, The British Columbia Regional Energy and Resource Table, outlines a series of initial actions to attract partners and investment. Here’s what you need to know.
Investing in the critical minerals supply chain
Central to the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources such as hydroelectricity or solar are critical minerals. Elements including zinc, cobalt, and copper are needed to manufacture tools such as batteries and solar panels. While B.C is one of the few places in the world with these natural resources, many global players have already launched strategies to scale-up extraction of its own critical mineral supplies. Canada has thus promised $6 million over the next three years to British Columbia’s critical minerals strategy.
Advancing geoscience for mineral exploration is another key facet of the policy. Although B.C. is already Canada’s largest producer of copper, there are opportunities to extract other minerals, says the report. Of priority is the scale-up of foundational geoscience to de-risk investment in exploration projects, through collaboration with academia and First Nations knowledge holders.
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A major role will be played in the supply chain of B.C.’s electrification goals, particularly in transportation, which presents an alternative approach to harnessing the province’s critical minerals through recycling of batteries. Of additional interest is research into waste and mine disposal sites.
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Transitioning heavy industries (such as concrete) to demand electricity rather than fossil fuels is a difficult feat. A key component is ensuring the electricity grid can handle increased demand in a sustainable manner.
“While approximately 98 percent of British Columbia’s electricity generation comes from clean or renewable resources,” says the report, “nearly 70 percent of the province’s end-use energy demand is currently met through fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas.”
As demand for electricity is projected to increase, the document highlights the need for new infrastructure projects, which would allow for more vehicles and heavy industries to plug into the grid. Many parts of B.C, particularly remote First Nations communities, still rely on fossil fuels such as diesel to power their everyday lives. Investments into tools such as heat pumps and zero-emission vehicles are central to a net-zero Canada.
Go deeper: Twelve First Nations communities throughout B.C. recieved $7.1 million to develop alternative-energy projects and advance energy efficiency through B.C.’s Community Energy Diesel Reduction program, a CleanBC initiative, earlier this year.
Growing hydrogen and exploring other clean fuels
Vancouver is well known for being a hydrogen fuel cell tech hub, but the entire supply chain of hydrogen — from production to export — is of particular interest to the federal government. The document highlights $50 billion in hydrogen opportunities for the domestic economy, as well as another $50 billion in export value for the Canadian economy, particularly due to demand from Asian markets.
There is limited understanding of the provincial scale-up required for clean fuels, with a significant gap in the biofuel and synthetic fuel space. The report emphasizes development of foundational knowledge, such as the infrastructure needed to develop the sector, which could attract global investment.
Navigating development of B.C.’s forests
While B.C. is rich in forest, fraught is the recent climate regarding its cultivation and harvest. Old-growth forests, which are of high cultural value to many First Nations communities, also represent significant economic value to domestic and international markets. Fundamental to the future of B.C.’s forestry is navigating conservation alongside harvest for development of materials.
The document highlights increased production and export of forest products as a key facet.
There is high interest in developing the forest economy through investment in novel bioproducts, alongside market development. Central to this is ensuring the participation of First Nations through access to training, participation, and decision-making, says the document.
Understanding carbon management
It is widely accepted that reaching net-zero requires not only a reduction of emissions, but a removal of emissions, too. Metro Vancouver’s climatetech ecosystem is notable as a first-mover in the province when it comes to navigating the capture and removal of carbon dioxide. B.C. is well positioned to participate in global carbon markets, but key gaps in the province include regulation and storage with regards to this nascent economy.
Currently, there exists limited public policy regarding the province’s carbon management. The report acknowledges this gap and highlights a need to research opportunities that both reduce emissions and enable economic activity.
Reducing the regulation bottlenecks
Central to the above areas of interest is a federal desire to align governments, First Nations, and industry to move forward in advancing shared goals. From decision-making to impact assessments, the Canadian government outlines a commitment to accelerate clean growth projects, particularly when it comes to the labour transition.