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B.C. Hydro adds $260 million in 5-year electric conversion plan

Electric car charging stations, heat pumps, hydrogen trucks
Air-to-air heat pump system installation at an Alaska home using oil for heating. B.C. Hydro is increasing subsidies to make the switch from oil and natural gas to electric heat pumps. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)

B.C. is adding to existing federal and provincial low-carbon incentives with a $260 million plan funded by B.C. Hydro, with much of the money to subsidize replacing oil and natural gas heating with electric heat pumps.

Premier John Horgan announced the latest plan Tuesday, citing a summer of forest fires and an intense heat wave as an incentive to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He acknowledged that more spending by the debt-heavy Crown power utility will put more upward pressure on rates, as the Site C dam on the Peace River continues construction work with a budget that has swelled to $16 billion.

Site C power is surplus to existing domestic needs, but northwestern U.S. and other provinces need to electrify to meet Canada’s greenhouse gas emission targets, and B.C.’s abundant clean hydro can supply it, Horgan said.

“It really does separate us from other jurisdictions in Canada, and indeed western North America,” Horgan told reporters from Vancouver Sept. 28.

By 2026, the plan calls for the number of vehicle fast charging stations around B.C. to go from 98 to 325. The province and federal government already fund a rebate program for switching from a gasoline or diesel car to electric or plug-in hybrid.

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Energy Minister Bruce Ralston said the heat pump program adds another $3,000 on top of existing subsidies for eliminating oil and natural gas home heating. Another $60 million program is for incentives for industry such as mining and forest operations to switch from carbon fuels to electricity.

A further $50 million is offered as incentives for a “clean industry and innovation rate” for new businesses involved in synthetic fuels, carbon capture and storage, large data centres and particularly hydrogen fuel for heavy trucking and trains, Ralston said.

The plan was submitted to the B.C. Utilities Commission on Sept. 1, along with a rate application that has to be approved to pay for it.


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