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British Columbia’s CleanBC Plan: What you need to know

This article forms part of our Power Perspectives 2023 publication. Download the full publication here.


In 2022, the BC government made further investments in its CleanBC initiative, the climate action plan introduced in 2018 that aims to reduce the province’s greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions by 40% below 2007 levels by 2030.

In the 2022 provincial budget, the BC government pledged more than $1.2 billion in further funding for CleanBC, adding to its existing $2.3 billion commitment to CleanBC. Among other investments, the budget allocated $120 million in funding to continue the Climate Action Tax Credit, designed to offset the impact of the province’s broad-based carbon taxes on lower- and middle-income households. CleanBC also includes an Industrial Incentive Program that reduces carbon tax costs for facilities that can demonstrate that they are among the lowest emitters in their sector compared to GHG benchmarks. On April 1, 2022, BC’s carbon tax rate rose from C$45 to $50 per tCO2e.

The BC government directs some of the carbon tax revenue it collects to the CleanBC Industry Fund, which supports projects that reduce GHG emissions from large industrial operations with emissions of over 10,000 tonnes of CO2e per year. The size of grants under the Fund is based on the amount of emissions that will be avoided by the funded projects. In its third round, the CleanBC Industry Fund is investing $25 million in carbon tax revenue to support 26 new projects.  Some significant projects that received funding include:

  • NorthRiver Midstream Inc. received $18.5 million for three projects: electrification of its Dawson Creek natural gas plant, a carbon capture and sequestration project at its McMahon gas processing plant near Fort St. John, and installation of waste heat recovery units. The NorthRiver projects are estimated to reduce GHG emissions by about 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 between now and 2031.
  • ARC Resources Ltd. received $13.7 million to electrify its Dawson Creek natural gas plant, which it estimated will reduce emissions by 125,000 tonnes annually.
  • Ovintiv Canada ULC (formerly Encana) received $4.23 million for two projects: upgrading compressors and valves at 20 gas processing facilities to reduce energy requirements, and upgrading compressor engines across compression stations in northeast BC to new high-efficiency units.

The BC government also announced that ten BC First Nations will receive funding to develop alternative energy projects and advance energy efficiency in their communities through the British Columbia Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative (BCICEI), supported by CleanBC.

Meanwhile, the province’s introduction in the last quarter of 2021 of the CleanBC Roadmap, which purports to set out an accelerated path to achieving the CleanBC 2030 targets, has not gone unchallenged. In March 2022, the Sierra Club BC filed a petition in the Supreme Court of British Columbia alleging that the BC government failed to deliver an annual climate change accountability report that met requirements set out in the Climate Change Accountability Act. The legislation requires this report to be delivered in respect of each calendar year from 2020 onward, setting out, among other things, a description of the actions taken by the BC government in the applicable calendar year to minimize the GHG emissions for which it is responsible, its plans to continue minimizing those emissions, its determination of such GHG emissions for the applicable year, and a statement of the offset units retired by the province in respect of those emissions. A major concern cited in the petition was a lack of detail in the province’s reporting as to how it will meet 2025, 2040 and 2050 targets, as well as how it will account for the funding of LNG projects while simultaneously reducing GHG emissions. The Sierra Club petition has parallels with a UK case decided in 2021 that found the UK government had fallen short of its statutory obligations to deliver detailed information illustrating how carbon budgets would be achieved. As of the time of writing, the BC case had not yet been decided.

Other critiques of the CleanBC Roadmap included a report released by the University of British Columbia’s Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC), which criticized the CleanBC Roadmap for over-reliance on electrification to meet the province’s GHG emission reduction targets. CERC’s analysis questioned the prevailing view that BC faces a surplus of renewable energy, projecting a significant shortfall of renewable electricity the province will require to meet its GHG emission reduction targets in light of reliance on electrification to achieve targets, notwithstanding the contributions of the Site C Project to hydroelectricity supply. The report therefore recommended utilizing all available bioenergy and renewable electricity resources and promoting a balanced renewable energy portfolio.

Significant additional electricity demands may be driven by LNG projects, whose electrification plans are frequently cited as significantly reducing GHG emissions from these large industrial projects. As discussed further below, for example, the Woodfibre LNG has reaffirmed its commitment to electrifying the liquefaction process by using an electric train, and the LNG Canada project is also considering electric-drive technology for its second phase.

The future of one major electrification project, the proposed expansion of transmission by BC Hydro into the North Montney region of Northeastern BC through construction of a 230 kV transmission line from a BC Hydro substation in the vicinity of either the GM Shrum or the Site C Generating Stations, remains undetermined. BC Hydro launched a study to assess requirements to bring transmission infrastructure to the region more than two years ago but continues to describe the project as being in the early study phase, with no timeline for making a decision on the project. If it proceeds, BC Hydro estimates the project could avoid over 1 million tonnes of GHG emissions per year.



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