The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s (GVBOT) annual Energy Forum, presented by Bennett Jones, put a spotlight on British Columbia and western Canada's position in the worldwide clean technology and energy market.

I moderated a panel on the potential for export leadership—at a time when the demand for reliable, sustainable sources of responsibly produced, low-carbon intensive energy is resounding across the globe.

Here are the key takeaways.

LNG Opportunities Are More Than Economic for Canada

Canada's energy sector accounts for 12 percent of the country's GDP and in September 2023, the export value of energy products represented more than one-quarter of Canada's total exports. Global demand for energy will continue to grow with Asia driving long-term demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Pacific Rim countries. Energy leaders in Japan, the world's biggest LNG importer, say the energy transition in Asia will require more natural gas to ensure a reliable and affordable power supply. Industry experts are critical of forecasts predicting peak fossil fuel demand in the near future, which are based on assumptions that are not reflective of current realities.

LNG Canada’s export facility in Kitimat, British Columbia is nearing completion and on track to begin shipping by mid-decade. Although this is the country's only LNG project under construction, Canada can still become an important player in the global market through growth in LNG exports.

South of the border, the United States exported more LNG than any other country in the first half of 2023. 67 percent went to EU countries and the U.K. Proposed projects in Mexico could eventually make it the fourth-largest exporter of LNG globally.

Missing out on the opportunity to be a major supplier of LNG is about more than just the lost economic benefits to Canada. It also means that we miss out on the environmental and social opportunity to supply energy needs with Canadian products that are developed to high standards that meet our societal values. Global LNG demand will be supplied whether Canada is a big part of the equation or not—either by democratic countries or those that are not, and which may weaponize the resource or have questionable records on human rights and environmental stewardship.

Net Zero Needs It All

Reaching net zero targets by 2050 is not about deciding between investments by incumbent energy producers vs. start-ups and “disruptors.” We will need both. It is also not a choice between technologies, whether it's hydrogen, direct air capture, point-source carbon capture, renewable electrification, or others. We will need it all.

We also need the continued economic support of industries relying on existing fuel supplies and technologies to continue to invest in technological innovation. This is not a time to be picking winners over losers when it comes to clean energy technology. British Columbia and western Canada are well-positioned to take advantage of many opportunities across the spectrum of corporate models and technologies.

It is also important to remember that the energy transition is not linear. It is moving at varying speeds around the world. Some resources and technologies may be more prominent in the early stages of the transition. Others may be utilized more in 2050 and beyond.

Do More, Faster

2050 is not far off. Putting the array of clean technologies in place to reach net zero means that in Canada, we need to remove some of the policy and regulatory hurdles to investment quickly, take some risk and get to work in bringing innovation to life. This is easier said than done, but for all the discussion and debate on net zero, there are many areas where concrete action is needed now.

As an example, Bennett Jones recently wrote on the promise and growing interest in small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada, Going Nuclear: Updates on Alberta's Continued Pursuit of Small Modular Reactors. While the concept of this carbon-free source of energy is gaining momentum, the regulatory burden and potentially lengthy project development timelines remain key hurdles. Federal-provincial cooperation will be needed, including streamlined regulatory processes, to make SMRs a reality.