Western Canada’s great energy story is being written in B.C.

Photo by: Penticton-based Structurlam

If you’ve heard the terms energy and Western Canada in the same breath of late, odds are the story was about fossil fuels. Maybe it was about job losses, the price of oil, or a pipeline.

It’s a phenomenon British Columbians know well: In our national conversations, B.C.’s economy is overshadowed by Alberta’s. And that’s especially true when it comes to energy.

But what is most remarkable is what’s lost in this — the fact that B.C. has an amazing story to tell. More specifically, an amazing clean energy story.

World markets are undergoing one of the greatest transformations of all time, shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy. As Mad Money’s Jim Cramer recently put it, fossil fuels are the new tobacco. A week earlier, Tesla had skyrocketed to become the second most valuable car company in the world. (Cramer has also changed his tune on Tesla — he’s now a fan.)

And where is B.C. positioned in this changing world?

In a winning position.

Just last month, the Global Cleantech 100 announced its annual list of the most promising cleantech companies in the world. Canada had an impressive showing: 12 companies on the list of 100, second only to the U.S. Half of those companies were from B.C. — a province with 13 per cent of Canada’s total population was home to 50 per cent of its winners on the list.

That’s no anomaly. Year after year, B.C. dominates the list.

After all, this is the province that is home to Burnaby-based General Fusion, a leader in the race to fusion energy (one backed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos). General Fusion just scored a whopping $65 million in new funding from a global investment company.

This is the province that is home to Richmond-based Corvus Energy, a leader in supplying electric ferries with batteries and charging technology. Not only is B.C. Ferries a client, Corvus’s tech has made its way into Ontario and Europe.

This is the province that is home to Ballard Power, a leader in zero-emission fuel cells. Many British Columbians know that Ballard has had a long and rocky road, but its stock price has roughly tripled over the last year, thanks in part to China’s appetite for electric vehicle tech.

This is the province that’s home to Penticton-based Structurlam, whose engineered mass timber will hold up Walmart’s new headquarters in Arkansas. Structurlam is North America’s leading mass timber maker, and B.C. is a leader in building taller, energy-saving wood towers. The province sees engineered wood as a way to boost B.C.’s forestry sector, increasing its value as a solution to limited supply. Last year, B.C. became the first province in Canada to allow mass timber towers up to 12 storeys.

And forestry isn’t the only natural resource benefiting from the energy transition. It takes metals and minerals to build wind turbines and electric cars. B.C. is not only a global mining hub, it’s home to 14 of the 19 metals and minerals needed to make a solar panel.

B.C. is also the only province in Canada where those electric cars have reached double-digit sales: 10 per cent of all car sales as of last fall — all powered by the province’s almost entirely renewable electric grid.

Indeed, B.C. has a long history of playing it clean, having introduced North America’s first price on pollution over a decade ago — a policy that quietly helped shift its economy to the cleaner one it has today, and the even cleaner one it will have tomorrow.

As of 2017, 32,000 British Columbians were employed in the clean energy sector, and that number doesn’t include the many industries benefiting from it. Better news still, the sector is rapidly growing and poised for continued success.

You want a great energy story about Western Canada?

Take a look at B.C.

This post was co-authored by Dan Woynillowicz and originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun.

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