A recent report from a North American electricity watchdog has raised concerns about the reliability of B.C.’s power supply and grid, especially in extreme weather scenarios. 

The report was released following widespread blackouts that affected tens of thousands of residents in October. 

The report, which identified B.C. as an at-risk area for the first time, warned that the province could face power shortages by 2026 due to rising demand and the NDP government’s decision to end the use of natural gas for power generation. 

The report coincided with the rejection of a $327 million project by FortisBC to expand natural gas infrastructure in the Okanagan region, where the utility company predicted natural gas shortfalls as early as 2026/27. 

The BC Utilities Commission dismissed FortisBC’s projections, citing the CleanBC climate plan, which aims to phase out natural gas heating in new homes by 2030.

The CleanBC plan also sets a target of 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035, which would increase the electricity demand. However, former environment minister Barry Penner, who now works with Resource Works, said the province should not take its electricity supply for granted.

“That should be a wake up call, and should shake us out of our complacency that we have enough electricity to meet all of our potential desires, whether it’s electrification of vehicles, industry or home heating,” said Penner.

Penner said heat pumps, which are expected to replace natural gas heating, are not reliable in very cold temperatures and would require backup heating systems that use electricity. 

He said this could strain the grid and increase greenhouse gas emissions if more natural-gas-fired generation is needed to meet the demand.

“You’re facing it in the Okanagan. You are exhibit A of the impact of new government policy, restricting energy options,” said Penner.

Critics urged the provincial government to reconsider its policies and support the expansion of natural gas infrastructure, which Penner said would provide more affordable and reliable heating for consumers and businesses.