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Washington state is converting its ferries to hybrid-electric. Will BC Ferries follow suit?

WATCH: A decision by Washington State Ferries to convert three of its largest vessels to electric power has some on this side of the border wondering why BC Ferries is still building natural gas-powered ships. Ted Chernecki reports.

A move towards green energy south of the border is raising questions about the future of BC Ferries.

Washington State Ferries is converting its three largest ships to hybrid-electric power over the next few years.

“The people of Washington state are very concerned about climate change. They’re very concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, so as an agency, we’re looking at our big polluters,” Roger Millar of the Washington State Department of Transportation said.

READ MORE: BC Ferries reports increased earnings; fares will remain steady as a result

Over the next couple of years, three of Washington state’s bigger ferries will be refitted as hybrids, relying on electric power most of the time and using diesel on rare occasions.

After forming government, the BC NDP announced a full review of BC Ferries. Global News asked BC Ferries if electrification of ferries was part of the review, but did not get an immediate reply.

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Green Party MLA Adam Olsen says B.C. is “late to the game” when it comes to electrification.

“It’s really frustrating,” he said. “We’ve got the innovation, we’ve got great schools here, we’ve got investors. We just seem to be loving to chase the game, other jurisdictions leading while we follow.”

Washington state has learned lessons from Norway, which uses 100 per cent electric ferries to ply waters that look strikingly similar to B.C.’s coast.

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BC Ferries does have a cable-driven ferry to Denman Island. Olsen notes that some of the shorter routes in his ferry-dependent riding of Saanich North and the Islands could be candidates for electrification.

“It’s going to help the bottom line with respect to getting rid of the cost of fossil fuels to power them, and as well because we need to decrease the emissions for the climate action targets that we need to hit,” he said.

— With files from Ted Chernecki

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