More renewable energy is the ultimate goal but what we do in the meantime can have a lasting impact on the economy and the environment
If there is one thing that the advancement of technology has shown us in the last 30 years it’s that progress is inevitable. Advancements have made the world better in countless ways, and new technologies are being made available every day that are pushing the limits of what we think of as being possible. A future where all the world’s energy needs are met with renewable sources isn’t just possible any longer — it’s inevitable. The energy markets of the world will be going through some major changes in the coming years, but nailing down a specific timeline for a renewable energy world is a difficult task.
Estimates put that timeline anywhere between 2030 and 2100, with any number of conditions, caveats and specific geopolitical circumstances needing to be met before we reach 100% renewable energy. As it stands now, getting to 100% renewable won’t be happening anytime soon. Even if we take the midpoint between the two estimates, it will be the year 2065 before fossil fuels are phased out completely.
Industrialized nations have already started to realize that the old ways of generating energy are politically unpopular and downright dirty and inefficient. In the United Kingdom, lawmakers have promised to close that country’s last coal-fired power plant by 2025, and transition the country to less greenhouse gas (GHG)-intensive energy sources. The plan calls for natural gas to take up the bulk of the energy gap made up from decommissioning coal power plants.
Shutting down coal isn’t just on the horizon in the U.K. Other large, industrialized nations are putting the kybosh on coal. France plans to shutter its coal plants by 2023, German coal-fired plants are becoming unprofitable and are shutting down more rapidly than expected, and even the Government of Canada has a plan in place to eliminate all coal power plants by 2030. Will energy consumption decrease in these countries to account for the electricity gap caused by mothballing coal plants? Will the residents of Paris, Berlin, Toronto, or Vancouver, be content to spend a few hours a day without electricity? The shortfall must be made up by an energy source that is alternative to coal, and LNG is to what we must turn to in order to meet energy demands.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration is forecasting that worldwide natural gas consumption will increase from 120 trillion cubic feet in 2012 to 204 trillion cubic feet by 2040, due in large part to governments mandating the shutdown of coal plants on a large scale. There is an already massive market that is mandated by government policy to grow over the next half-century. While current conditions have natural gas supply at historic highs, predictions are that in the next five years the market will see a turn around. Large energy players like Shell say the market has already begun to change, and are predicting up to 5% year-over-year increases in LNG demand over the next decade.
As it stands now, we are on the sidelines watching the United States, Australia, and Russia build the infrastructure and set the policies that will allow them to supply a changing world with the energy it needs to grow and prosper. The clock is ticking on whether British Columbia will be a global player in LNG.
We are in a very enviable position. We have massive reserves of an incredibly important resource for which there is a growing market, and we have an opportunity to contribute to the largest global effort to cut GHG emissions history has ever seen. Natural gas is produced under a strict regulatory framework protecting workers, communities, and the environment. As many countries around the world begin to phase out coal, if there isn’t a security of supply for replacement fuel, those shutdowns could be delayed or cancelled. Simply put, countries aren’t going to stop burning coal if they aren’t certain there is an alternative readily available to them.
As British Columbians, we are committed to doing our part to reduce GHG emissions locally and globally. Therefore, the single largest impact we can have is to make our natural gas available to the world. We have to think globally and act locally – the natural gas contained within our province has the potential to help solve the most pressing global issue of our time, but it can only do so if we can transport it to where it needs to be.
As renewable technologies continue to advance, and the world moves closer to securing more renewable source for its energy demands, time is running out for British Columbia to make a meaningful contribution to creating a cleaner world. Coal is done, and renewables, while inevitable, are still a long way away. British Columbians have a critical role to play in deciding how that gap will be filled, and whether we will play a role of environmental, economic, and most important, moral leadership.