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New opportunities in the BC Energy Minister’s mandate


We reviewed the mandates BC’s new Premier David Eby set out for his cabinet, and we are seeing some promising ambitions towards healthier, more energy efficient and resilient homes for all. We are encouraged by several new commitments to address household energy insecurity included in the mandate letter for Josie Osborne, the new Minister for Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation. At the same time, we see an opportunity to build on these commitments in a few key areas.

New commitments welcomed

Minister Osborne’s mandate letter sets out to “develop targeted programs to support clean energy and efficiency upgrades for low-income and rental housing.” Renters, who make up one-third of the province’s households, often have no control over upgrading their home, yet often must pay the price for inefficiency through their utility bills. Low-income households are less likely to be financially able to take advantage of rebate programs, which is why we urge the Province to provide full cost coverage for low-income households. Addressing energy efficiency in low-income and rental housing is fundamental to advancing energy justice, and we applaud this first explicit reference to these groups in the new Energy Minister’s mandate.

Secondly, we are pleased to see that the new mandate includes working with the BC Utilities Commission in identifying its role in the province’s clean energy transition, and in pursuing climate and affordability goals. The BC Utilities Commission is the provincial body that regulates BC’s energy utilities, and it is outdated. Its narrow scope does not allow it to adequately consider BC’s objectives for energy, climate, poverty reduction, and Indigenous rights. Last year, we called for the BCUC to be reformed so it can better incorporate climate and equity objectives. A reformed BCUC would enable and require the province’s utilities to align their planning, rate-setting, and efficiency programs with these objectives.

Finally, it is imperative that Indigenous Nations have meaningful ownership of electrical energy generation in the province. The Minister’s new mandate places emphasis on creating opportunities for Indigenous ownership and partnerships in BC Hydro infrastructure and clean energy projects, which would be a much-needed improvement to the province’s Electrification Plan.

Opportunities for further action

The mandate letters did not mention new regulatory commitments that are necessary to shift the province away from fossil fuels for home heating. For example, the letters did not address the fact that 10,000 new fossil fuel furnaces continue to be installed in BC homes each year, locking households into high-emissions energy systems that pose health hazards for many years to come. Greenwashing fossil gas, and continuing the expansion of residential gas infrastructure, are incompatible with BC’s climate goals.

Similarly, there was no specific mention of new regulations that would require active and passive cooling in new housing construction in line with the recommendations of the Extreme Heat Death Review Panel. That said, we see an opportunity for the Province to advance this work in alignment with new commitments to climate and disaster risk reduction under the new Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness.

Inclusive energy efficiency retrofits and affordable access to energy are essential to meet building sector climate targets, tackle poverty, and prevent illness and deaths resulting from extreme weather, such as the 2021 heat dome in BC. Decisive action can help BC mitigate and adapt to climate change, reduce pressure on the health care system, improve housing, advance affordability, and create clean energy jobs.

We look forward to collaborating with the new government on the best path to implement these mandates and meet climate and affordability objectives.

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Written by Josephine Schrott, Analyst, Community Energy

[Published on December 15, 2022]