What Can We Learn from British Columbia’s Green Energy Program?

green energy wind turbine

When it comes to green energy, it might be time we looked north for inspiration; in British Columbia, an increase in the production and use of clean, renewable energy has invigorated the local economy, not to mention the green energy industry.

British Columbia has long been a leader in the field, but it wasn’t until the Clean Energy Act was signed into law on June 3, 2010, that BC’s clean energy initiatives truly took the lead in North America.

The law detailed several goals for the province, including electric self-sufficiency by 2016, a clean and renewable energy target of 93 percent (the highest in North America), specific electricity exportation goals, and mandated reductions of greenhouse gases.

The progressive law is the product of the government’s long-standing commitment to clean energy, laying the foundation for what has now become the reality in BC: a renewable, green energy industry that is an economic, environmental, and socio-political driver in the province.

Green Energy Creates Jobs and Boosts the Economy

Clean Energy BC is a 25-year-old association that calls itself “the voice of British Columbia’s Clean Energy industry.” Executive director Paul Kariya claims that their operations are responsible for more than $8.6 billion in investments, as well as about 16,000 construction jobs across the province.

And those numbers are only increasing. The 160 members of Clean Energy BC currently produce 14 percent of BC Hydro’s energy supply via thermal, hydro, solar, and wind power, helping the province approach its alternative energy goals.

Green Energy Can Have Socio-Political Benefits

First Nations communities, suffering from the collapse of the oil market, have found a new niche in the BC green energy industry.

While oil producers and transporters continuously neglect to consult with First Nations people, for example with regards to the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, intended to bring Alberta oil to the BC coast, renewable energy producers have sought to create an important bond with these communities.

“Over the course of a decade, clean power producers have forged deep relationships with indigenous leaders,” Kariya told CTV News.

The Clean Energy Act made the First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund possible, not only promoting dialogue about this important issue but also increasing First Nations community participation in the sector.

The People of British Columbia Continue to Fight for Green Energy

But perhaps the biggest thing that we can learn from BC is that the fight is never over. Even with these laws in place, the people of BC never stop demanding for more: more awareness, more accountability, and more responsibility.

In May 2016, members of the Climate Leadership Team published a demand in the Times Colonist for BC to increase its efforts by bolstering its carbon tax and strengthening climate leadership. If these demands are met, BC could create a projected 270,000 new jobs within the next 10 years, all thanks to the green energy industry.

“If the provincial government heeds the advice of its own Climate Leadership Team, then we’re going to need plenty of clean electricity,” said Kariya. “We’re ready to deliver the goods.”

Although BC had been taking steps toward a cleaner, more progressive energy policy for years before the CEA was signed, having a true, complex piece of legislation, as opposed to a handful of regulations and good intentions, has helped to make British Columbia one of the most progressive clean energy locales in the world. The work being done by the people and government of the province are inspirational for states and provinces throughout North America.

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Wind turbines image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.