A white paper on Energy Policy in BC
British Columbia is blessed with a remarkable array of energy resources that have served as a key growth engine for our economy and helped to generate much of the prosperity that the province has historically enjoyed. From vast hydro-electric resources to world-class natural gas plays, BC has successfully developed energy resources through effective policies that have supported strategic marketplace, infrastructure and human capital development. Given growing global and domestic demand for energy, the Business Council is convinced that with effective planning and strategic actions, BC’s energy resources can serve as a foundation for prosperity well into the future.
However, this future prosperity is by no means assured. Energy resources are developed in a dynamic and competitive marketplace within which complex technological, policy and political factors influence outcomes. There are currently a number of significant shifts under way in the energy landscape that have created uncertainty and a corresponding need for new policy responses. The impetus for this Energy White Paper is therefore the Business Council’s belief that BC’s energy policies need to keep pace with change – addressing both the challenges and the opportunities facing our energy sector.
Mindful of the changing marketplace context, over the past year the Business Council’s Energy Committee has discussed, debated, listened to experts and held an energy conference that was specifically designed to look at global, national and regional energy transformations and what all of this means for BC. The White Paper itself has been a collaborative undertaking between staff and Committee members, supported by a robust feedback process that sought and received valuable input from many members of the Council as well as selected outside experts.
What stands out in the analysis is a strong convergence of views: the unprecedented nature and speed of market shifts necessitates a policy response, so that the broad BC energy sector and indeed the province collectively are able to take advantage of new opportunities and address challenges that have emerged from recent marketplace developments. The shale gas revolution, growing global demand for various energy products, concerns over climate change (GHG emissions), and fundamental changes in the electricity marketplace all require that provincial decision-makers reflect and act in the face of the new realities reshaping the energy sector. While there is a general level of awareness of current energy marketplace developments, the knowledge tends to be somewhat superficial; the full effects are not yet embedded in policy structures, and existing regulatory and policy need to be adjusted to reflect the current situation.
In many respects there is reason for optimism that energy policies are changing for the better. Governments (at all levels) are dedicating resources and updating their policy responses to better manage and adapt to a fast-changing energy landscape – capturing new market opportunities and tackling challenges in the process. The Business Council’s Energy White Paper is designed to advance the energy dialogue in British Columbia, by providing both a solid base of factual information on the energy sector (Part I), and a focused assessment of challenges and a high level set of recommendations to move the province’s energy sector forward (Part 2).
Ultimately, the degree to which BC’s energy policy framework successfully identifies and charts a course to meet the evolving marketplace opportunities and challenges will be an important factor influencing the province’s future economic well-being.