On a global scale, Canada ranks in the top 5 oil and natural gas producers. As the global marketplace shifts more towards using renewable energy while still using from fossil fuels, what does this mean for British Columbians? How BC manages this transition in energy will have a direct impact on future economic prosperity for the province, while having a broader influence for areas across Canada.
Markham Hislop, a journalist who has written extensively on the energy sector in Canada, recently shared in an interview that by 2100, 82 to 85 per cent of global energy will be provided through renewable sources. However, the world’s current energy needs are predominantly being met by fossil fuels, in the range of 82 to 85 per cent. If this inverse ratio is to be successfully established, Hislop believes the energy sector must embrace technological change. As this transition unfolds, fossil fuels will compete with renewable sources of energy. While clean energy technology is developing and gaining traction in the marketplace, fossil fuels will continue playing a relevant role in BC’s energy industry and economy, especially when areas of Asia are hungry for resources they lack or only minimally possess. BC needs all these sources of energy, and the big question is how this transition will be managed so jobs are kept and regional economies throughout the province are able to thrive in the long term.
The implementation of this transition will be directly felt by British Columbians through job availability. Stewarding the environment and maintaining vibrant quality of life can be achieved for people living throughout the province, as can be seen in the change of ownership of the Waneta Dam. When commenting on BC Hydro’s purchase of the Waneta Dam, MLA Katrine Conroy stated, “Securing a long-term source of clean, reliable power at a cost-effective price to continue serving the Trail smelter is a great development for the entire province.” As a result of this purchase, jobs in BC’s Kootenay region will be strengthened and economic investment expanded.
For generations, British Columbians have been working in the resource economy, and for many communities in the province, this is bound to continue. The resource economy is rewarding, and utilizing new forms of technology in order to sustain profitable resource development – both using fossil fuels and renewables – will advance a strong sense of purpose, support, and worth for communities across the province. British Columbia has the resource capacity to remain a beacon of economic prosperity. In BC, as many as two out of every three dollars are generated in the resource regions, yet this money is spent right across the province’s economy. With more than half the new natural resource jobs being located in the Lower Mainland, the BC government must be thoughtful in creating jobs and economic sustainability for rural communities as well. Thankfully, BC’s natural resources have benefited many rural areas of the province; specific resource projects enable remote communities to thrive by shaping job growth and skills training opportunities.
The Canadian Energy Research Institute recently launched a report highlighting the projected economic impacts of oil and gas supply in Canada, ranging from 2017 to 2027. In the document, British Columbia is touted as being a major player in the country’s crude oil and natural gas developments. When looking at job growth in BC within these sectors, the report forecasts that from 2017 to 2027, the following numbers of employees will be required per year for each industry: crude development, 63,000; natural gas development, 41,300; oil sands development, 27,300. The numbers are based on jobs directly relating to each industry, while also including indirect jobs from companies such as those who create electronic components.
If BC wants to maintain strong employment in both the fossil fuel and renewable energy sectors in the coming years, companies and governments must be mindful in managing the transitions from one form of energy to the other. Attention to detail is needed, as all areas of the province will be impacted by shifts within the energy industry. With thoughtful resource management and the use of innovative technologies, many potential possibilities and opportunities could arise and be of great benefit to current and future generations of British Columbians.