LNG's Role in Enabling Global Energy Transitions - And What It Means for British Columbia

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Highlights

  • Throughout history, societies have transitioned to energy sources with higher power density (i.e. more watts per unit of volume), portability, and flexibility. These transitions have enabled tremendous improvements in living standards, education and health, and reductions in poverty. However, today much more is known about the negative externalities of these energy sources, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • B.C. was a leader in the 2000s in setting GHG reduction targets and was also the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce a carbon tax. The province is blessed with abundant hydroelectric energy for consumer and industrial use; other jurisdictions are not so fortunate.
  • B.C.’s economy is too tiny to meaningful affect the quantum of planetary emissions, which is ultimately what matters. At 67 megatons (MT), B.C. contributes about 0.2% of annual global GHG emissions. By contrast, China’s emissions grew by 400 MT in a single year from 2018 and 2019. Being a leader requires taking a planetary, not an isolationist, perspective to achieving lower total global GHG emissions.
  • The fourth energy transition is underway. It involves the addition of distributed, small- and medium-scale renewable energy sources operating in concert with existing integrated energy infrastructure. As in previous transitions, the energy mix will include a widening array of energy sources that are fit for purpose. Natural gas/liquefied natural gas (LNG) is an important part of the mix and enables the displacement more carbon-intensive fossil fuels. The future is not “either/or” between fossil fuels and renewables – rather, it is an “and”.
  • B.C. has extensive natural gas resources and is proximate to Asian markets where demand for natural gas continues to rise. The potential benefits to B.C. from the emerging LNG export industry are significant. In 2018, B.C.’s conventional oil and gas sub-sector yielded almost $1,400 of real GDP per hour of employment, about 26 times the overall business sector average.
  • COVID-19 has punched a deep hole in B.C.’s GDP. Growth in B.C.’s burgeoning LNG export industry could be a key contributor to filling it, creating demand across the rest of the economy and contributing to other jurisdictions’ efforts to fuel-switch to efficient and reliable, but less carbon-intensive, energy systems.