A electric vehicle charging at the University of Victoria this month. (Photo Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions)

A electric vehicle charging at the University of Victoria this month. (Photo Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions)

Can B.C. cleanly power every car if we go electric?

Low-cost renewables are closer than appear, UVic study

B.C.’s switch to electric powered cars is a big step toward its role in helping slow the climate crisis.

But will we be able to cleanly produce enough electricity for vehicles in B.C. by the time all vehicles have switched over?

Not yet, but it’s easily doable says a new study from a team of University of Victoria researchers with support from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS).

The study will be published in the November issue of peer-reviewed science journal Applied Energy.

READ MORE: Drivers are ‘ICE-ing’ electric car charging spots in Greater Victoria

It found that if all vehicles in B.C. were powered by electricity instead of liquid fuels by 2055, B.C. would need to more than double its electricity generation to meet the forecasted energy demand. That takes into account B.C.’s law that all cars sold in 2040 are electric or non-oil burning.

“We fixed our assumptions based on current policies in the world,” said Curran Crawford, who co-authored the study with a team of UVic researchers.

However, the move could prove surprisingly cost-effective. But the answer isn’t new dams like Site C. The likeliest solutions are a multitude of renewable resource energy, primarily from wind and solar on the Island, and also new hydro sites. They also looked at longer term options such as floating off shore wind energy, biomass and geothermal, saying overall the resources are there.

“Depending where they go, the challenge is transmission [of the electricity or energy back to urban centres],” Crawford said.

For instance, B.C.’s planned Site C project will provide 1.1 GW, which merely “scratches the surface of potential increased power and energy needs.”

READ MORE: One out of three drivers have had their car unplugged at an electric pump

“Solar photovoltaic and wind power look very promising for BC due to their falling costs,” the study says. “By 2055, B.C. will need to increase its electrical production capacity from a 2015 baseline of 15.6 gigawatts (GW) to 23 GW. This factors in all-electric road transportation as well, and up to 60 per cent additional capacity will be needed. This would more than double BC’s electricity generation capacity to 37 GW.”

Right now, transportation is responsible for more than a third of B.C.’s GHG emissions. The province’s CleanBC plan relies on getting cars, SUVs, buses and truck fleets off fossil fuels and onto cleanly produced electricity.

The trick is waiting out the building of renewable energy facilities as the cost is coming down every year, thanks to rapidly advancing technologies and the human expertise that goes with it.

“The longer we wait the less it will cost to build the infrastructure,” Crawford added.

Under BC’s current Clean Energy Act, at least 93 per cent of grid electricity must come from renewable resources such as hydro power, wind or solar.

As long as that policy remains in place, electrifying the entire road fleet would reduce total emissions from the combined transportation and electricity sectors by 38 per cent between 2015 and 2055, relative to the current picture.

The key is ensuring that the policies enforce the creation of renewable electricity and not relaxing the standards around greenhouse gas options such as natural gas, Crawford said.

PICS is hosted at UVic and runs in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Northern British Columbia.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

North Saanich is giving local businesses a break by waving renewal fees for 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
North Saanich waives business renewal fees for 2021

The municipality raised $48,000 from businesses licences in 2020

The Sooke school district has filled all spots for their French immersion and nature kinderagarten programs in 2021-2022 school year. Regular kindergarten registration is still open and available. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke school district gets surplus of nature, French immersion kindergarten applications

Not enough room for almost half of nature kindergarten applicants

The Gettin’ Higher Choir will be performing alongside Wavelengths Community Choir and special guests during an online concert Jan. 30. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria choirs team up for online concert fundraiser

Valdy among performers for free concert

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Cowichan Tribes chief Squtxulenhuw (William Seymour) confirmed the first death in the First Nations community from COVID-19. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes confirms first death from COVID-19

Shelter-in-place order has been extended to Feb. 5

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
5 big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

A Vancouver Police Department patch is seen on an officer’s uniform as she makes a phone call. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver man calls 911 to report his own stabbing, leading to arrest: police

Officers located the suspect a few blocks away. He was holding a bloody knife.

Most Read