Tom van der Meulen shares first BC Research Update

In april 2013, Tom van der Meulen left for Vancouver with an ACSN-scholarship. Tom works at the Netherlands Consulate and does research in the field of Energy Transition in British Columbia. Read his interesting updates over the next few months!

"My name is Tom van der Meulen, I'm a 23 year old master student at the VU University in Amsterdam. I study Environment and Resource Management and specialize in Energy Studies. I have a passion for energy related subjects, which the region of BC has an abundance of! On the 1st of April I moved from my hometown Amsterdam to Vancouver to work there as an intern at the Netherlands Consulate-General which is stationed in Vancouver. I will combine this six month long internship with the writing of my master thesis. The topic of my master thesis will be about the energy transition in British-Columbia. I would like to acknowledge the ACSN for providing me with a scholarship that supports me while conducting this research. British-Columbia (BC) is a region that is well known for its resource richness. Forestry, energy and industrial goods are among the biggest export products of BC. This export is expected to further increase the upcoming 20 years. New developments and technologies in the fossil fuel sector have made unconventional resources like oil-sands and shale gas economically viable to extract. Two resources with an abundance of in BC and Alberta. My visit to BC couldn't be in a more interesting and exciting period.

The first glimpse of Vancouver was around 7pm from my flight, the DL2037. A beautiful sight to see Vancouver at sunset as the airplane had to make a roundabout above the city to approach the YVR airport from the west. With the sun in our back the gentle touch of the airplane hitting the runway was equivalent to the lovely welcome I received from the city of Vancouver and its inhabitants. The Canadians were proven to be very polite and hospitable. It was not long for me to notice that there is a very strong connection between the Canadians and Dutch due to various historical events during the 2nd World War. By just mentioning your Dutch opens a whole new door of kindness, emotions and hospitality. Vancouver, so far away from home and so different than Amsterdam, felt in a strange but comfortable way just like home.

On the 14th of May BC had their provincial elections, which happens once every four years. One of the most discussed topics in this election was the policy considering resource use and energy production. After 12 years of a ruling Liberal Government the New Democratic Party (NDP) was well on their way of winning the new elections. Change was needed and the NDP built their campaign on promising this change. With a lead of over 20% on the BC Liberals in all the different polls it looked almost certain that there would come an end to the 12 years of Liberal reign. Surprisingly but true the BC Liberals managed to pull off a stunning win. With the winning of 50 seats out of the total of 85 (NDP got 33) their reign will continue for another four more years. The outcome of this election will have great influence on the future energy developments of the province. The NDP and BC Liberals both have a very different and conflicting view on how BC should move forward towards the future considering energy. The upcoming five months of my stay here in BC will be the prove for me to see how the current policies, activities and developments will influence the energy transition the world and BC is currently going through. For now these are my first observations during my first month in Vancouver.

The upcoming five months I will conduct research, take interviews, read articles and newspapers, participate in dialogues and visit conferences to see how BC is choosing its path towards the future considering energy. To research this path I will focus on four renewable energy projects that are currently online in BC to examine the development process of these projects. Who were the constraining actors? Who were the stimulating actors? Which regimes formed a barrier for the projects? Did the projects get any form of government protection? These are examples of the questions I'm hoping to answer during my period here. My next update will be in two months and will go into further detail about the projects and about the role of the government, private companies, knowledge institutions and interest groups in the energy transition." (Tom van der Meulen, May 2013)