The past year was a challenging one globally. Here in B.C., our government is working hard to ensure we all benefit from a strong economy.
Our review of B.C. Hydro resulted in reduced electricity rates—a 50 percent reduction over the next three years. B.C. Hydro is committed to keeping electricity rates affordable for B.C. families and businesses, while continuing to invest in renewing our infrastructure, which is the backbone of our economy.
This investment includes the installation of almost 525,000 smart meters. This number will grow to 1.8 million across B.C. by December 2012.
Smart meters are important for our future. They will help us run the power grid more efficiently and profit from electricity sales that help fund essential services like education and health care. We expect to save $70 million over the next three years, and a total of $1.6 billion in avoided costs and increased efficiencies over the next 20 years, which will allow us to keep our power rates among the lowest in North America.
2011 also set the stage for the 10th instalment of the Infrastructure Royalty Credit Program. Today, this program supports development of 30 new infrastructure projects in northeast B.C.—creating jobs for B.C. families who work on important projects, such as new and upgraded roads and pipelines.
We also took steps to set the stage for greater social responsibility when it comes to resource development. Starting January 2012, a new online registry—accessible to everyone—will allow visitors to search for the location of where shale gas development is taking place. This will enable people everywhere to find out more about our development practices and the additives used during these activities.
This initiative supports our commitment to open and transparent government. It also builds upon our pledge to British Columbians that their water is protected with strict regulations and containment procedures in place. B.C. has never reported an incident of water contamination resulting from hydraulic fracturing, and we are taking the steps required to prevent that from happening.
That's important, because British Columbia is on the cusp of a renaissance in resource development that will result in tens of thousands of jobs in our resource communities.
A good indicator of this growth is the 2011 sale of petroleum and gas rights. This year we had $222.6 million in sales.
As well, we have begun to seize a historic opportunity in British Columbia. Global trade in liquefied natural gas (LNG) is expected to grow by another 50 percent by 2020. So we are working hard to build a whole new industry.
Developing our LNG export potential will generate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in new investment. That will mean even more revenues for government to pay for important services for British Columbians, create well-paying jobs, help to diversify our economy and create new opportunities to build expertise in a brand new global industry.
B.C. is ideally positioned to compete for a share of the LNG market. We've been preparing for this opportunity for nearly a decade with progressive royalty programs, infrastructure upgrades, comprehensive environmental assessments, and direct engagement with industry, First Nations and communities.
When Premier Christy Clark announced the B.C. Jobs Plan, the province committed to have the Kitimat LNG plant up and running by 2015, with a total of three LNG facilities operating by 2020. We also committed to building our mining industry with eight expansions and seven new mines by 2015. In doing so, the province set a bold new path forward.
In fact, the work is well underway on the mining side, with the opening of Copper Mountain near Penticton—the first new copper mine since 1998.
In the coming year, you can look forward to many more positive developments in mining, natural gas development, and in the area of clean energy. I am optimistic 2011 helped us to turn an important corner and I am confident the future ahead brings with it tremendous opportunities throughout our great province.
Rich Coleman is B.C.'s minister of energy and mines.