Despite the City of Vancouver’s war on natural gas, the city and FortisBC, B.C.’s natural gas utility, have reached an agreement to work together on projects that will reduce Vancouver’s carbon footprint.
The city and FortisBC announced November 24 that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on a number projects, including incentives to switch city vehicles from diesel and gasoline to cleaner burning natural gas.
“By working together, we’re finding solutions whereby we can get more efficient appliances in, reduce emissions, create pathways for things like renewable natural gas and natural gas vehicles,” said Jason Wolfe, director of energy solutions for FortisBC.
The city’s Renewable City Strategy aims to phase out natural gas, which has caused FortisBC and other businesses some concern. Only RNG would be acceptable in new developments.
The problem is that, at present, RNG is nearly non-existent. It makes up less than half of 1% of the natural gas supply in B.C.
Currently, some of the methane that is captured at the Vancouver landfill is used to generate electricity. But 40% of it is still flared. FortisBC has agreed to invest in a new system that will use that wasted resource, clean it up and inject it into the gas stream as RNG.
Even then, however, the amount of RNG FortisBC will be able to supply will still be less than 1% of the total available natural gas supply in B.C.
“We’re looking at a number of other opportunities as well,” Wolfe said. “We’ll keep adding to that number.”
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The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT) has entered into a partnership worth $2.5 million with the provincial government intended to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) increase their export capacity, with a specific focus on Asia.
“Our role is to seize the opportunity afforded to us as Canada’s only Pacific province, to fulfill our exporting potential by looking to Asia and the other markets accessible to us through Canada’s Asia Pacific gateway and by counting on our vibrant SME community.”
The plan includes initiatives to partner industry with government and business experts to help build their international trade capacity. As well, it specifically looks at the export potential of First Nations-owned businesses.
“One in five British Columbian jobs is tied to exporting, and there exists a direct linkage between exporting, job creation and increased productivity, said GVBOT CEO Iain Black.
“By investing in these programs, businesses in Greater Vancouver and across the province will benefit.”
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The Canadian Coast Guard has announced it is looking to fill 150 positions in B.C. to staff new lifeboat stations, ships and infrastructure projects.
The federal agency is looking to add 500 positions across Canada. While that will not reverse the cuts made under the previous Harper government, it will allow a quicker response to environmental emergencies and search-and-rescue missions, said David Heap, regional director for the coast guard’s integrated business management services.
Some of the new positions on the West Coast will be tied to four new lifeboat stations and several new vessels, part of the $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan announced in November.
The locations of the stations have not been announced, but they will help fill in “some of the blanks that we’ve currently got up and down the coast,” Heap said.
Port Hardy will also get more resources to beef up the coast guard’s environmental-response capacity along northern Vancouver Island and the central coast.
The federal agency is hosting job fairs and looking to hire mariners, navigators, marine engineers and environmental response personnel, as well as technicians and engineers to work on infrastructure such as radar sites.
“Everything from electronic engineers who know about microwaves and radar and how they work to labourers that are going out on the work crews to help set up some of the shore-side facilities,” Heap said.
Heap said none of the 500 positions will replace retiring workers. Upward of 20 per cent of the coast guard’s 4,500 employees could soon be retiring, he said.
“We have the same [aging] demographics as other industries, meaning there’s a lot of people looking to retire in the next five to 10 years,” Heap said.
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Increased investment in wireless phone and high-speed Internet infrastructure in northern British Columbia is a welcomed change for local businesses.
“I wouldn’t say it affects my business so much as it enables my business,” said Steve Tory, founder and CEO of Dino High Tech Solutions, an IT and marketing company based out of Tumbler Ridge.
Telus has committed to investing $4.5 billion through 2019 across the province. Some of the investment will be used to extend fibre optic infrastructure directly to homes and businesses. The new infrastructure will help increase Internet access and connectivity in the more rural areas of British Columbia’s north.
As part of a strategic partnership with the province, Telus has also invested $1 million to develop wireless access along Highway 29 between Hudson’s Hope and the Highway 97 junction. The investment brought wireless service to the Moberly Lake community located near Chetwynd, which is 100 kilometres north of Tumbler Ridge.
Naomi Larsen, executive director of the Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce, said the area’s First Nations communities and businesses have greatly benefited from the wireless connection along Highway 29, which has given them access to wireless services for the first time. That access can create opportunities that small and local business never had before, as it did for Tory.
Tumbler Ridge is a small town of just over 2,500 people located near the northern Alberta border. It was recently the beneficiary of a similar infrastructure investment that helped connect the region to the 21st century. Before the upgrade, Tumbler Ridge citizens and businesses relied on outdated technology to connect them to the rest of the world. For Tory, access to a high-speed Internet connection meant that he could leave his job in the oil and gas sector and explore entrepreneurial opportunities. He said that without high-speed Internet he wouldn’t have dreamed of opening a tech business in northern B.C.
Broader Internet access not only helps Tory find customers locally but also allows him to compete internationally. While he would like to see more money invested in tech infrastructure in the north, Tory said the region is ahead of the curve, particularly when compared with rural areas in the U.S.
“It really did make a dramatic difference to the community,” said Donna Merry, former secretary for the Tumbler Ridge Chamber of Commerce. “Small businesses now have access to the technology that they need to do their business. This was not always the case.”
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