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December cold snap shows the value of B.C.’s gas system
Jan 28, 2022
FortisBC’s gas system meets British Columbians’ needs when at their highest and allows easy decarbonization opportunities
Surrey, B.C. ̶ January 28, 2022: When the mercury dipped during one of B.C.’s coldest periods in recent memory, the province relied on all of its energy to keep British Columbia warm and moving. From December 26 to 28, 2021 FortisBC Energy Inc.’s (FortisBC) gas system moved more than 4.5 petajoules (PJ) of energy through its system with the peak delivery of 1.53 PJ on December 27 – a 46 per cent increase over the average amount of gas flowing on a December day.
Moving large amounts of energy easily, reliably and affordably is a strength of the province’s gas system. From 7 to 8 A.M. on December 27, 2021, FortisBC’s gas system moved the approximate equivalent of over 20,120 megawatts (MW) of energy – close to double the amount of energy moved by BC Hydro’s electrical system that day. In the Lower Mainland alone, the gas system moved more than 42,000 gigajoules (GJ) of energy during its peak hour on December 27 – the equivalent energy output of about ten large hydroelectric dams.1 The capacity of the gas system to provide this amount of energy to British Columbians at a time when they need it most reinforces how important it is for the gas and electric systems to work together for the benefit of British Columbians.
Extreme high or low temperatures cause heating and cooling systems to work overtime to compensate, leading to rapid and significant increases in energy demand. To meet peak demand, an energy system either needs to have the ability to produce enough energy to meet it or have the ability to store energy to use when energy needs ramp up. One of the advantages of the gas system is its ability to easily and affordably move and store large volumes of energy, whether in dedicated gas storage, in Liquefied Natural Gas facilities or even within the lines themselves. In its ability to store large amounts of energy affordably and easily, the gas system compliments the electric system well.
Another benefit of the gas system is its ability to easily decarbonize. Renewable Natural Gas, a carbon-neutral gas derived from organic waste, can be substituted into the system seamlessly without any changes to transmissions infrastructure or swapping out home appliances or home heating systems. By introducing renewable gases2 into the gas system, we can displace conventional natural gas and reduce greenhouse gas emissions affordably and without the need for equipment retrofits, while still using a safe and reliable system that enables the province to meet extreme energy demands efficiently.
Utilization of the gas system to transport low-carbon gases is a key element of FortisBC’s pursuit of a “diversified pathway” to a lower-carbon B.C. A comparison of a diversified pathway, featuring gas and electric systems working together, and a pathway focusing more exclusively on electrification was conducted by a third party consultant in 2020. Their report, commissioned by FortisBC, showed that either pathway could help B.C. hit its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets but that a diversified system would be more resilient and less expensive for the province overall through using existing infrastructure to transport lower-carbon energy.
1 Comparison is solely based on units of energy. Large hydroelectric dam is characterized as a 1,100 MW, 5,100 GWh facility.
2 FortisBC uses the term renewable gas to refer collectively to the low carbon and carbon neutral gases or fuels that the utility can acquire under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Clean Energy) Regulation, which are: Renewable Natural Gas (RNG or biomethane), hydrogen, synthesis gas and lignin
FortisBC Inc. and FortisBC Energy Inc. do business as FortisBC, a regulated utility focused on providing safe and reliable energy, including natural gas, electricity, renewable gas, propane and thermal energy solutions. FortisBC employs approximately 2,550 British Columbians and serves over 1.2 million customers in 135 B.C. communities. FortisBC owns and operates two liquefied natural gas storage facilities and four regulated hydroelectric generating plants, approximately 7,335 kilometres of transmission and distribution power lines, and approximately 50,182 kilometres of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines. FortisBC is indirectly, wholly owned by Fortis Inc., a leader in the North American regulated electric and gas utility industry. FortisBC Inc. and FortisBC Energy Inc. use the FortisBC name and logo under license from Fortis Inc. For further information on FortisBC, visit fortisbc.com. For further information on Fortis Inc., visit fortisinc.com.