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For months, Canada's natural gas utilities have mustered lobbying efforts and funded online misinformation campaigns to fight efforts by municipalities to phase out the climate-warming fuel. And now they have a new ally with deep ties to the province's NDP to push the pro-gas message in the province's lefty media.

In a recent op-ed in The Georgia Straight, former NDP political operative and lobbyist Bill Tieleman hammered municipal efforts to replace gas with electricity.

Tieleman is the director of the BC Coalition for Affordable Dependable Energy (BC CADE), a new lobby group of restaurateurs and fireplace installers and some labour unions and homebuilder organizations. He is a public supporter of Premier David Eby and an old-guard NDP member whose communications firm regularly works for unions.

"Drought-stricken British Columbia is quickly running out of hydroelectric power and needs affordable, dependable energy, but municipalities now banning renewable natural gas and natural gas are only making things worse," he wrote. The group is "asking municipalities" to pause efforts to phase out gas and reverse any existing measures to "protect (British Columbians') ability to heat their homes and run their businesses with dependable, affordable energy choices."

On its website, BC CADE adopts another angle, emphasizing the municipal rules are an "elimination of choice" for B.C. residents. That approach is nearly identical to the misleading messages spread earlier this year by Voice for Energy, a national online campaign with links to Canada's largest natural gas lobby group.

Claims made by both groups are flawed. Researchers at the University of Victoria have noted B.C. can develop its grid and renewable electricity generation capacity to meet both current and future demand. Even in recent periods of high energy demand like the January 2024 cold snap, B.C. has exported power to the U.S., according to a recent report by Powerex, BC Hydro's electricity trading subsidiary.

Moreover, Victoria, Nanaimo and other B.C. municipalities taking steps to reduce planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions are not banning gas outright. Instead, they are becoming early adopters of the zero-carbon step code, a provincial building code that will be implemented provincewide for new buildings in 2030 with stringent emissions limits.

According to a plain-language internal government summary of the regulations obtained by Canada's National Observer, the rules include exceptions that largely allow people to have gas fireplaces and restaurants to use gas stoves and exclude breweries, warehouses and other industrial buildings. Barbecues are also exempt from the rules.

In practice, the document notes this might lead to "relatively low demand" for natural gas, potentially making the installation of natural gas lines "cost-prohibitive" for FortisBC and developers.

For months, Canada's natural gas utilities have mustered lobbying efforts and funded online misinformation campaigns to fight efforts by municipalities to phase out the climate-warming fuel. And now they have a new ally.

Tieleman's op-ed is not the group's only use of questionable information. On its website, BC CADE references "numerous academic studies" to back its claims that electrification will be expensive — but provides no links to the studies. Speaking with Canada's National Observer, Tieleman responded to the omission saying BC CADE is "not a research body."

"I'm not an electrical engineer. I'm not an electrical electricity expert. I'm not a resource management person," he said. "I go with what I can see and read and what people are saying."

"I took the role with BC CADE because I am concerned about how B.C. can meet its energy needs without damaging our economy or losing jobs," he wrote in a subsequent email. "I also worked in favour of completing the Site C BC Hydro dam, working with construction unions on that issue."

In a followup email, he referenced a lengthy commentary — which is not peer-reviewed — penned by former senior B.C. civil servant Richard McCandless to back BC CADE's claims regarding the cost and challenges of electrification.

Tieleman also cited two Vancouver Sun columns by Postmedia political commentator Vaughn Palmer and an article in the same newspaper regarding BC Hydro's electricity imports in 2023 due to low water levels in the province's hydroelectric reservoirs.

The BC CADE website also promotes so-called renewable natural gas, a gas chemically identical to fossil-based natural gas but made from organic waste and manure and heavily promoted by FortisBC as a climate solution. But FortisBC's own estimates note the fuel will only ever meet a small fraction of B.C.'s demand for gas.

In a statement, FortisBC spokesperson Diana Sorace said the company is "not a member of BC CADE. However, we do support an open and informed dialogue on important energy issues around affordability and the reliability of the energy system."

“I see a lot of concern around our energy system’s future, but B.C. is much more resilient than places in the news like Texas,” said George Benson, the Zero Emissions Innovation Centre’s economic development lead. “And we’re not only resilient but on the edge of the wealth-generation opportunity of a generation. B.C. has a huge global opportunity in the zero-carbon economy — but the slower we go on climate action, the more room we leave to our competitors.”

Victoria Coun. Jeremy Caradonna added that the city faced minimal resistance from businesses when it started implementing the zero-carbon step code last year. For him, the "elephant in the room" is transitioning existing buildings heated with natural gas or heating oil to electricity — a much larger, complex and pricey challenge.

Moreover, despite the claims by BC CADE and other lobbying efforts and disinformation campaigns framing the zero-carbon step code as the key force undermining B.C.'s electric grid, the reality is more complex.

If B.C. builds all its planned liquefied natural gas facilities, the province will require an additional 43 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity annually — more than eight times the power generated by the Site C dam, according to Clean Energy Canada. Critics have slammed the province's LNG expansion plans due to their climate impact, and questioned their economic feasibility.

The development of other industrial facilities will also require more power, dwarfing the power demands of new buildings generated by cities adopting the zero-carbon step code, he said.

BC Hydro has committed to generate its future electricity from renewable sources, putting out a call for new sources of renewable power earlier this year to meet a projected 15 per cent increase in demand by 2030.

BC Hydro directed inquiries about BC CADE and the utility's plans to meet future power demands to the provincial Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. The ministry did not respond to questions on the topic from Canada's National Observer by deadline.

In every single energy future scenario for British Columbia, regardless of what we do … we will need vastly more electricity, full stop," said Benson. "But the BC CADE campaign is framing the municipal efforts to decrease carbon pollution as the sole driver of increased electricity demand, which is only a small part in relation to the much larger industrial loads," said Benson.

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"On its website, BC CADE references "numerous academic studies" to back its claims that electrification will be expensive — but provides no links to the studies."

In fairness (because my other shoe will quickly drop) not clearly referencing referenced sources is so prevalent in media that it seems to be a mistake whenever a journalist DOES include a reference clear enough that a reader can actually find it. CNO journalists follow, to some extent, this pattern, too. (I'm awaiting a response on this very question from one of your cohort who is out of contact til midweek).

The other shoe: in my view, I'd be cautious about spotlighting Mr. Tieleman as a current voice of the BC Left (at least, I hope he is long gone from the vanguard of lefty BC thought). In my view, Tieleman is, metaphorically speaking, a whore to lefty dinosaurs**. In addition to dropping pant for methane, he was also (in)famously a leading voice from the dinosaur left opposing proportional representation in the last BC referendum, keeping company with right-wingers -- and all political parties, I believe (?), except the Greens -- on the issue. One can imagine that if BC had a large domestic thermal coal industry, for domestic electricity generation, he'd happily sign up -- for the right price -- and bend over for that as well, climate crisis be damned.

I've not kept a close eye on either Tieleman or The Georgia Straight for years, but it's interesting to note the latter's recent history and that it's owning corporation is now apparently helmed by former BC premier Glen Clark who went to work, successfully by all accounts, for Jim Pattison after being shown the door by the NDP. Hopefully The Straight has not gone completely "milquetoast latte left".

**Lefty Dinosaur: one who is happy to carry on with colonial, rape & pillage resource extraction as long as sufficient gold dust filters through the floorboards (spillage) of "The Club" to keep the workers below thinking they're getting their fair share.

Brilliant commentary! It resulted in a much appreciated belly laugh.

Ex NDP stalwart and finance critic David Stupich skimmed from charities, which led to the resignation of Mike Harcourt as premier after just one term. He was a pretty good premier who understood cities and respected First Nations, but his policy to close Riverview mental hospital was never followed up with adequate "community-based" mental health care, and that in turn helped catalyze our crisis in mental illness and addiction. Glen Clark's arrogance, though it was somewhat tamed later in a court case that involved a contract for a deck (he won the case), was the straw that broke the camel's back and led me to let my membership lapse. Now even Harcourt caved to Big Gas and lobbied for an LNG project in Howe Sound.

I encountered Glen Clark's arrogance a decade later when one of the companies he managed for Pattison bid on a tender our studio issued through our employer's Purchasing Dept., and came in unusually low, a yellow flag in itself. When they didn't get the project, an angry Clark called me directly to demand we reconsider. He said, "When I was in government..." -- was I supposed to genuflect? -- "...the low bid always got the work." I reiterated that our process is more thorough where price is but one consideration, and besides, his guy violated the terms of the tender and changed the design and specs. Glen Clark, former premier of BC, hung up on me. No sweat off my brow.

It is very sad that BC does not have a larger, more mature Green Party ready to govern. Greens allowing themselves to be associated with extremists who tried but failed to smash down the NDP's back door during a leadership contest and shove a young, naive candidate down the hall to make a dash for the throne without bothering to get elected by the people first, did not do them any good.

It's important to keep the BC Conservatives out of office, and there's a good chance they'll split the vote with Kevin Falcon's BC United Party (formerly the BC "Liberals" who were conservatives in disguise). Looking at the field in play, the NDP led by David Eby is still the best option, but given their tainted history and LNG madness, that is a downer of a calculation.

"I'm not an electrical engineer. I'm not an electrical electricity expert. I'm not a resource management person. I go with what I can see and read and what people are saying."
which, being interpreted,:
"I don't understand the issues. I don't know what I'm talking about. But I'll talk nevertheless, especially as it looks like I can whip up enough fear to get me some serious attention."

You called that one right. An expert in propaganda and spreading of bovine excrement, revealed by the methane fumes he expels, when pushing his contorted rational. Why would anyone believe a captured, compromised, self described non-expert, regurgitating dirty energy talking points. Kudos to the towns, cities and people who want a quality of live and banning this methane poison is just the beginning. Time for this dinosaur thinking to be buried in the ground with the dinosaur remains and left there.

Tieleman is the proverbial bad faith actor in any scenario, so it is completely on brand for him to be heading a new astroturfed group devoted to developing fossil fuels and preventing any climate change measures. This is the same guy who campaigned with Bill Vanderzalm against a sales tax, defended first past the post voting, and was Selina Robinson biggest supporter. Anyone progressive who thinks of him as an ally is either a grifter or stupid.

SHAME on Bill Tieleman!!!

Tieleman's narrative is about as off base as one can get. He confesses to knowing nothing about electricity, the central interloper into Big Gas's climate-busting business, yet greenwashes for gas with shameless abandon for money.

I say let him. It's only his credibility that will be sacrificed.

The sheer technical and economic competitiveness of renewables will own the final act, locally and globally. The solution to depleting glacial-fed hydroelectric reservoirs is for BC Hydro to get directly involved -- hopefully with federal and First Nations partners -- in wind projects, both onshore (First Nation's lands are ideal) and offshore. Wind is cheap and abundant and today's grid-scale batteries have defeated intermittency as an issue. CATL, the world's largest battery manufacturer, just announced the release of their sodium ion battery, which is in hybrid form with lithium (~2 salt cells to every lithium cell) that has achieved 200 watts per kg energy density, is more lightweight than today's batteries, and has very good cold weather performance and longevity. Flow, iron air and liquid metal batteries are also now being commercialized for the grid.

A large offshore wind farm named Naikun was once proposed for the relatively shallow Hectate
Strait between Haida Gwaii and the mainland. It fell through because BCH wasn't prepared to pay a little more than break even costs. This project should be reconsidered, and BCH needs to be directly involved as partner, or fund it outright as an alternative to building dams. Two or three Naikuns off northern Vancouver Island could generate most of the Island's power needs, especially now that even larger and more efficient wind turbines have been developed to float and not disrupt the seafloor with embedded pylons.

Solar is even better because it can scale up or down. One quarter million solar roofs in BC will afford home and business owners to offset their energy bills with zero emission power while BCH's net metering can help pool the decentralized point sources of power and defray the cost of building new generation and help conserve the water behind the dams.

It's too bad that Bill Tieleman chooses to stay ignorant of renewable electricity, and therein detached from the future.