B.C. boosts natural gas for trucks
VICTORIA – With low natural gas prices and abundant supply, the B.C. government is ramping up efforts to promote vehicle conversion to natural gas.
Energy Minister Rich Coleman announced a regulation change Tuesday that allows natural gas utilities to offer incentives to vehicle fleet operators for switching from diesel. FortisBC, the province's largest gas supplier, can spend up to $62 million on incentives to refit vehicles and ships and another $30.5 million on natural gas filling stations.
FortisBC vice president Doug Stout said the company sees the subsidy as a good investment to get beyond "early adopters" such as Vedder Transport, which has converted its Abbotsford-based fleet of milk trucks to LNG. FortisBC set up an LNG filling station in the company's yard.
"The goal is to build for other fleets, spread them out so they'll be able to go from Vancouver to Prince George to Calgary to Edmonton," Stout said. "That's the vision."
The B.C. government is also offering a separate discount of up to $2,500 off the purchase price of qualifying compressed natural gas vehicles.
"We think there's a huge opportunity here," Coleman said.
Environment Minister Terry Lake said an LNG vehicle produces 20 to 30 per cent less greenhouse gas than conventional fuels.
"We don't have the low-hanging fruit like coal-fired plants to shut down, like other provinces do," Lake said. "So the transportation sector is a big area where we can make some gains."
Chilliwack-based Westport Innovations sells engine conversions and natural gas filling stations around the world. Bill Larkin, Westport's chief financial officer, said the incentives are important now because customers are still not convinced of the fuel savings.
"We're building the new Port Mann Bridge and the South Fraser Perimeter Road to move more goods," Larkin said. "If we can get more trucks on LNG and CNG, it reduces the cost of moving goods, reduces emissions and makes our economy more competitive."