I recently drove from Vancouver to Tumbler Ridge to attend the Northeast British Columbia Coal and Energy Conference. I like to drive when the time is available because it gives me a greater appreciation for this beautiful province. It also (usually) affords me the opportunity to spot some wildlife, although I came up 100% empty handed on this trip. Given the lack of wildlife, I felt the need to rename BullMoose Falls, but you’ll have to ask me about that!
The relationship between clean energy and resource-based industries in BC
So, I know that Northeast BC contains the majority of the province’s oil and gas (at the conference, I heard it was 95% more, but cannot find an online resource to confirm this). And I know that Tumbler Ridge was literally built to be a home for two metallurgical (coking; steel-making) coal mines.
I was surprised, however, to see a wind farm on the hills just outside Tumbler Ridge. A quick look at the owner’s website tells me: “Meikle Wind generates energy equal to the annual needs of 54,000 British Columbian homes. The facility reached commercial operation January 31, 2017, and is now the largest wind facility in British Columbia, increasing the installed wind power capacity in the province by 37%.” I think this is impressive. And, it’s exactly what British Columbia needs to create the low-carbon society so many desire.
I am just so struck by the sight of windmills that sit on the very same hills from which metallurgical coal is mined. There are so many synergies between the two industries. I learned from the Mining Association of BC that it takes 100 tonnes of metallurgical coal to produce the 185 tonnes of steel used in a typical wind turbine. What a reciprocal relationship!
And, in some ways, I think this is a perfect metaphor for BC.
We are a resource province. We always have been.
Resources pay for necessary government services like health and education. Resources pay the wages of our families. Resources build community centres and keep whole towns alive – I live downtown Vancouver, but this fact becomes quite apparent, the more I travel to the other corners and the centre of this fine province.
At the same time, we recognize the need to move to a low-carbon economy, in part through clean energy. To protect a world for generations to come.
It’s not either/or. Both resources and clean energy come from right here! It’s resource development and clean energy. It’s even resource development for clean energy.
The conference and at its attendees were interesting and energizing. I’m eager to see what else is in store for this fine province.