Ottawa, B.C. and Shell invest $105 million in new low-carbon innovation centre

Monte Stewart
July 21, 2021

A new $105-million B.C. low-carbon innovation centre will be a catalyst for clean-energy technology development and emission reduction, say the provincial government, Ottawa and Shell Canada’s president.

But green energy promoters questioned whether the B.C. Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy will reduce Canada’s economic dependence on fossil fuels and curb greenhouse gases.

“The centre will have many strengths [and] will act as an accelerator at incubating new clusters of technology companies that can help meet the challenges of our time,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan during a July 16 news conference in Vancouver.

B.C., Ottawa and Shell each contributed $35 million to the centre, which is slated to launch this fall at a yet-to-be-announced location. The independent, non-profit centre’s aim is to accelerate and scale up low-carbon, clean energy technologies, reduce carbon emissions and decarbonize the economy by bringing together innovators, governments, researchers and industry.

The centre will focus on carbon-capture and storage, the production of low-carbon, or blue, hydrogen created from fossil fuels, biofuels and synthetic fuels, renewable natural gas, and battery technologies.

“The climate crisis is a pressing challenge that will require determination, innovation and collaboration to tackle,” said UBC president Santa Ono during the news conference. “I’m excited that the B.C. Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy will exemplify this by bringing together the federal and provincial governments, research institutions like UBC and [industry partners] like Shell.”

Ono said the centre has great potential to expand climate change prevention partnerships across society.

But green energy advocates criticized the province and Ottawa for including carbon-capture and storage in the centre’s mandate. Laureen Whyte, executive-director for Clean Energy B.C., which represents independent-power producers, said her group is concerned that the centre will not develop green energy from renewable sources.

“Unfortunately, the current provincial government’s policies are not at all conducive to a growing — or even continued — presence of renewable energy in the province,” Whyte said in an interview with Research Money. “We are working to encourage public policy that is more favourable to renewables, as they offer tremendous benefits to the economy at a very low cost.”

She said that the first policy issue for Clean Energy B.C. is that there isn't yet an implementation plan to electrify the B.C. economy.

“There's an electric vehicle [purchase-incentive program]. That's the only thing that's being implemented so far.”

Whyte said there is a place for low-carbon energy development in B.C. as the Canadian economy reduces its dependence on fossil fuels, “but there's definitely a gap there with renewables not being part of the [centre’s] picture.”

However, Shell Canada president Susannah Pierce said at the news conference that B.C. must also tackle emissions from industrial sectors that “can’t easily be electrified," such as aviation, ocean shipping and road freight.

Pierce echoed Horgan’s call for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to clean energy development and emission reduction that includes governments, industry and citizens. The B.C. resident said the province has the right conditions for like-minded industries, governments, universities, First Nations and environmental groups to partner on renewables and climate-change prevention.

B.C. and federal officials did not explain what period the funding will cover, who will lead the centre or how it will sustain itself financially.


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