I cannot share local MLA Michelle Mungall’s enthusiasm about our new “electric-ready” ferry. The reality is that taxpayers are spending $63 million for a new diesel-powered ferry that might be eventually be converted to run on electric power. While electric ferries are already in operation right now in other countries, ours might become electric in 2030. This is a pathetic attempt at greenwashing a status-quo ferry design, not an “exciting milestone.”
An electric ferry now would eliminate the use of one million litres of diesel fuel and offset 570 tonnes of CO2 annually. As we sit here in the smoke of record-breaking wildfires, caused by extreme drought and heat from climate breakdown, I can’t understand what we are waiting for.
It does not have to be this way. Norway put the first fully battery-electric ferry into operation in VERY similar conditions to those we have on Kootenay Lake (including the “weak grid” in Balfour) in June 2015. The challenge of charging the ferry in an area with undersized electricity supply was solved by adding a storage battery at each terminal.
To add insult to injury, the battery system for this Norwegian ferry was designed by B.C.-based Corvus Energy! In January 2019, Corvus Energy (in Richmond, B.C.) was awarded a contract to supply the energy storage system for FIVE new all-electric ferries being built for another Norwegian ferry operator.
Norway is not the only country with fully electric ferries. Last year, the world’s largest battery-electric ferry went into service in Denmark. Even Ontario has two electric ferries that are nearing construction completion!
Why are we such laggards in British Columbia? It seems to be a question of political will. While the B.C. NDP and B.C. Liberals are attempting to build a fragile future on fracked gas extraction, liquefaction and export, both the Norwegian and Danish electric ferries were the direct result of government initiatives to harness the ingenuity of the private sector to tackle the problem of reducing CO2 emissions from their countries’ ferry fleets.
The B.C. government trumpeting a diesel “electric-ready” ferry for 2023 is like a taxi operator proudly announcing that a Toyota Prius will join the fleet in 2023, with a possible plug-in version to follow in 2030.