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Fighting climate change requires broad efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That’s why FortisBC is one of the first utilities in Canada to develop an action plan that includes increasing the percentage of renewables in its system, advancing energy efficiency and developing green transport solutions. The goal? To lead the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“As an electric and natural gas utility, our focus is on building on the strength, reliability and sustainability of our systems and making sure the energy we deliver is low carbon,” says Roger Dall’Antonia, president and CEO, FortisBC. “I am hopeful our efforts can contribute to achieving a critical mass to where we see a real impact on GHG emissions in Canada.”

Tyler Bryant, FortisBC’s low-carbon strategy and policy manager, says, “We have an ambitious target – 30BY30 – that will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.”

The main thrust for achieving this goal is to increase the renewable natural gas content of FortisBC’s throughput to about 15 per cent – or approximately 30 million gigajoules – in the next decade, says Mr. Bryant. “When we developed North American’s first renewable natural gas program in 2011, customers could voluntarily sign up and pay a premium, with increased customer demand as the signal to acquire more renewable supply. We started with about 1,000 customers and now have over 10,000.”

FortisBC’s approach of displacing molecules of conventional fossil-fuel-derived natural gas with renewable natural gas molecules injected into the system has served to attract significant customer support as well as interest from investors and partners.

“Currently, our supply is coming from landfills, organic waste and agricultural waste, but we see opportunities to expand the program to include other low-carbon gases, such as hydrogen and syngas,” says Mr. Dall’Antonia.

An increased attention on environmental performance from the general public as well as regulators can advance the discussion, he suggests. “Much like the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires electric utilities to produce a portion of their energy from renewable sources, regulations could mandate that a certain percentage of the natural gas supply has to come from renewables.”

In order to meet the growing demand for renewable natural gas, FortisBC is keen to expand its already impressive list of collaborations that include a partnership with the City of Vancouver, which envisions building B.C.’s largest renewable natural gas facility at a landfill site in Delta, and purchasing from projects as far away as London and Niagara, Ontario.

In addition to a commitment to increase energy supply from renewable sources, FortisBC is advancing sustainability by tripling its annual investment in energy-efficiency programs from 2019 to 2022 to approximately $100-million per year, says Mr. Bryant. “These investments include efficient appliances and systems that benefit homeowners and building upgrades for commercial customers.”

Another opportunity to reduce GHG emissions comes from advancing low-carbon-emitting transport, says Mr. Dall’Antonia. “In B.C., 41 per cent of carbon emissions come from transportation, and we are supporting measures like increasing the number of electric vehicle charging stations as well as promoting the conversion of road transport vehicles to LNG.”

Natural gas can also help to lower the environmental footprint of marine shipping, says Mr. Bryant. “We own one of the lowest-carbon LNG facilities in the world. When marine vessels are built or retrofit to run on LNG, that significantly lowers local air pollution, including sulphur and particulate matter, and reduces GHGs by over 25 per cent.”

With well-defined targets and broad and proven measures, FortisBC is leading the way towards a lower-carbon energy future.

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation.