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How much energy would be needed if all cars in British Columbia were electric?

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A recent study from a team of University of Victoria researchers with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) in British Columbia took a look at what it would take to meet the energy demand if all vehicles in BC were electric.

According to their research, if by the year 2055 all vehicles in British Columbia were powered by electricity instead of fossil fuels, the province would need to more than double its electricity generation capacity to meet forecasted energy demand.

In 2015, the baseline used for the study, BC produced 15.6 gigawatts (GW) of electricity. To meet the forecasted economic and population growth alone by 2055, that number would have to increase to 23 GW. Add in the all-electric methods of transportation, and that would add another 60% of demand, meaning BC would have to generate up to 37 GW of electricity.

The surprising part is that shift could be surprisingly cost-effective. In looking at the numbers, the team found that the 60% increase for EV transportation would only riase the average unit cost of electricity by 9%. The low number is due in part to the low cost and renewable energy (e.g. hydro, wind, solar) options in BC.

By spreading the demand and having at least half of the EV drivers charge their vehicles at off-peak times, that would mean less need to build out more capacity, so the cost would only rise by 5%.

Co-author of the study, Curran Crawford, says BC’s renewable energy sources would help keep energy prices down.

“Our modelling shows that electrification of transport systems, and a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), can be achieved at relatively low additional cost to the electricity system.”

Under BC’s current Clean Energy Act, at least 93% of grid electricity must come from renewable resources such as hydro, wind or solar. Crawford says as long as that policy remains in place, electrifying the entire road fleet would reduce total emissions from the combined transportation and electricity sectors by 38% (or 260 MtCO2) between 2015 and 2055, relative to business as usual.

The full report will be published in the November issue of Applied Energy.

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