Barriers to Innovation: Geothermal Power

By Andru McCracken


MLA Andrew Weaver wants to see geothermal power developed in Valemount and he expects to see someone from the provincial NDP take the lead as a champion.

Weaver asked the NDP what they were doing to transition away from fossil fuels.

“The Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology talked about the importance of innovation. I agree. But there are barriers to innovation in B.C., and those barriers lie in B.C. Hydro,” said Weaver.

Weaver gave the example of Borealis GeoPower in Valemount.

“The member for Prince George–Valemount and I have been trying to get government to recognize the enormous potential for this project to showcase innovation in B.C.’s clean energy sector. British Columbia is the only jurisdiction in the Pacific Rim that isn’t using its geothermal resources,” he said.

Weaver brought up community support, being on the end of an existing BC Hydro line and the imminent construction of Valemount Glacier Destination.

“…enhanced local power production on an already stretched and often intermittent line will be required,” he said.

“Could [the Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources] please explain what her ministry is doing to encourage the use of our outstanding geothermal resources?” he asked.

Minister Michelle Mungall said that the opportunity for geothermal needs to be proven.

“There are some companies are doing just that,” said Mungall. “They’re working to prove up geothermal resources that have been identified, Borealis is one of them.”

Mungall said that a permit was already issued and that they are working on a new one.

Weaver said that nothing is being done on the file on the ground for two reasons, one because of the cumbersome regulatory barriers and the absence of a champion within government.

“Geothermal drilling is being regulated by the Oil and Gas Commission via rules that don’t reflect the practice within the international geothermal sector,” he said.

“There is no ability for geothermal projects to lever existing federal funds without a strong provincial commitment.”

Weaver said geothermal resources have the potential to diversify and decarbonize B.C.’s energy systems, provide energy with minimal environmental impact footprint create jobs and prosperity in northeastern B.C. and provide a showcase for innovation in the clean energy sector.

He asked another question:

“When will her ministry start streamlining the regulatory process and start encouraging, as opposed to discouraging, British Columbia’s outstanding geothermal sector?”

Mungall said her ministry hasn’t discouraged the sector which elicited a noisey reaction from Liberal opposition members.

“I’m not too sure why the Liberals are all worked up about this particular issue, honourable speaker. It’s not like they ever discovered geothermal when they were in office.”

Mungall finished by saying that there was still science to do.

“It’s about a process in terms of actually making sure the resource is sufficient enough, hot enough, to actually generate electricity from it,” she said. “That needs to be done.”

When contacted for comment Borealis GeoPower’s Alison Thompson said this:

“We are grateful for the steps that the BC Government and elected officials have taken to become more familiar with the geothermal industry’s capabilities.”
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