BC Ferries is inching closer to its carbon-reduction goal with the purchase of four fully-electric vessels and installation of new charging stations.

With a $75-million loan announced last week, BC Ferries will be purchasing its first four ships that run only on electric propulsion power. The zero-emissions vessels are expected to be in service in 2027, said Reet Sidhu, a senior communications analyst at the corporation.

As well, the federal funding will support new infrastructure for electric-charging facilities at onshore terminals, said Sidhu.

BC Ferries faced earlier criticism because its six diesel-electric hybrid ferries are running only on diesel, since no electric-charging stations are available.

The infrastructure to support charging facilities and ensure a reliable power supply can be costly and logistically challenging, especially in remote or busy terminals, Sidhu said.

“Integrating electric vessels into the existing fleet requires careful planning to manage schedules, maintenance and charging times. Finding a balance in the operation of electric and conventional vessels will be important,” she said.

“The investment is a pivotal step in our broader strategy to modernize our fleet and enhance our environmental stewardship.”

BC Ferries has been working to reduce carbon emissions by 27 per cent as of 2030 to meet provincial targets mandated in the CleanBC plan. But progress has been slow.

During its last fiscal year, BC Ferries generated approximately 329,000 tonnes of planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions, 98 per cent of which came from ships burning fossil fuels. That’s equivalent to the energy consumed by over 4,300 tanker trucks using gasoline. And the latest sustainability report uncovered only a four per cent emissions drop since the baseline year in 2008, not including declines caused by service reductions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a $75-million federal #loan announced last week, @BCFerries will be purchasing its first four #ships run only on #electric propulsion #power. #GHG #emissions #CIB

The ferry service’s planned conversion to 100 per cent electric power, as part of its Island Class Electrification Program (ICEP), had to be scaled back because of insufficient funding.

Now, with the support of last week’s loan from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), the fleet’s four new electric ferries and charging stations are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 9,000 tonnes every year.

But CIB’s financing will cover less than 50 per cent of the total cost for the ICEP program, Sidhu said. Additional revenue will be required from a number of sources, including the province and sale of carbon credits, as approved by the BC Ferries Commission last year.

More CIB funding to electrify other ferry routes could be approved in coming months as finances become available, said Ross Marowitz, the Crown corporation’s manager of media relations and issue management.

Last October, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced a $500-million investment to keep passenger fares down and support electrification of ferries.

Keep reading

Well, that's good news. This kind of thing is going to keep getting easier . . . the first step is hard, then when you've done it a couple of times and get the kinks worked out, doing it some more is significantly easier, and the suppliers of whatever you need get better at it too, and gradually you reach the point where it's normal--where the tricky thing would be to try to put fossil fuel stuff in.