Provincial rules don't take energy needs of community into account, says MLA

Energy shortage predicted

We are about to have an energy shortage in the Okanagan that could affect our economy, our cost of living and our ability to heat and cool our living spaces, especially during extreme weather events.

I hope the alarm bells going off are being heard, and the utilities companies solve this problem. But sadly, it seems political ideology is trumping our need to provide heating and cooling, and that could have catastrophic consequences.

In December, the B.C. Utilities Commission rejected FortisBC's plan to expand natural gas infrastructure in the Okanagan, in line with CleanBC's environmental objectives. The decision, aimed at curbing natural gas use, overlooked a critical factor—the lack of adequate electricity supply or viable alternative energy sources to meet the region's growing energy demands.

The commission admitted Fortis would not be able to meet the growing demand by 2026, but would not allow further expansion of natural gas because of CleanBC policies and opinions.

The situation in the Okanagan mirrors a broader challenge faced by jurisdictions pursuing aggressive environmental policies without fully addressing the practical implications of such transitions.

The denial of the pipeline project, intended to serve approximately 110,000 homes and businesses, comes as the region experiences rapid growth. With a population increase of more than 30% in a decade, and projections of further growth, the demand for energy, particularly for heating in winter and cooling in summer, is set to surge.

Contrast that with Alberta's recent electricity grid failure, a stark reminder of the consequences of inadequate energy planning.

The Okanagan, without a robust plan to replace the natural gas supply, risks facing similar challenges. This scenario poses not just an inconvenience but a significant threat to the health and economic well-being of its residents. Without natural gas or electricity, Okanagan residents will be left in the cold, or may suffer through extreme heat without relief. This is more than a matter of bursting pipes and comfort – this is about life and death.

The CleanBC political document is dangerous in that it creates a vacuum in energy supply. The rejection of the natural gas pipeline, without a concurrent ramp-up in electricity production or alternative energy sources, leaves a gaping hole in the region's energy strategy.

Last week, a report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation noted that BC is at risk of electricity shortages by 2026.

This situation calls for a more nuanced approach, balancing environmental goals with the immediate and future energy needs of the community.

In navigating this tightrope, the government has to get more practical and less ideological. We need a multi-faceted energy strategy. This includes expediting the development of renewable energy sources, enhancing electricity grid capacity, and exploring transitional energy solutions.

Ideological environmental activism cannot come at the expense of the lives of Okanagan residents. But sadly, on both the supply of electricity and on the denial of Fortis’s application, the B.C. government has been silent.

My question to you is this:

Do you agree with the government’s approach to energy supply in B.C?. Why or why not?

I love hearing from you and read all your emails. Please email me at [email protected].

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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