Encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy on Vancouver Island

Comments on the Throne Speech of February 13, 2007

Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island Society

February 14, 2007

Nanaimo, B.C.

Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island is pleased with the overall direction yesterday’s throne speech takes the province in terms of its envisioning for energy. While few details have been announced (we await the revised Energy Plan), the government appears to be headed in the right direction. Ultimately the “proof is in the pudding.”

The clean energy fund is a great idea. In particular it will best be put to use to tap into our huge potential in tidal and wave energy in B.C., and in moving wind power to the markets. We could be on the leading edge of developing these technologies, creating many times more jobs on the Island than is true for the traditional (carbon) energies per unit of energy.

Reducing energy losses in the transmission system is very laudable. However, it will require the government to change the BC Utilities Commission’s mandate to focus more on conservation rather than simply on the lowest price (as appears to be currently the case; e.g. its ruling to replace the old DC line to Vancouver Island)

Rather than push for a “hydrogen highway” this capital investment would likely be far better invested in installing battery-recharging systems for vehicles. These funds would also be far better invested in alternatives to the automobile, such as more dedicated cycle paths in all cities (not just the major ones). The government has indicated that some monies will be given to municipalities to boost walking and cycling paths. A good start, and one that needs to be taken much further. If people felt safer on bicycles, and if buses and rail use were greatly increased, then way more people would leave their cars at home.

Greening building standards, including in all public buildings, is an excellent step. School boards, for example, will be able to meet their budgets much more easily as they spend a smaller portion on energy expenses. Tangible (achievable) benchmarks need to be established here.

Joining forces with new Federal program to help homeowners and others improve the energy efficiency is very welcomed news indeed! Hopefully some of these funds will help low-income homeowners. The measures will need to be accomplished in cooperation with agencies and companies that can deliver these services. Combining these programs with Hydro programs may very likely mean a greatly sustained boom in the building trades, especially in the renovation sector. ESVI can play a role here.

Smart metering is the way of the future. When homeowners learn where their electricity is going major savings can be realised. The meters the government proposes will help homeowners save money by altering their use of electricity to off-peak times (time-of-use), resulting in us saving a lot of money on building infrastructure and new power plants. ESVI can also play a role here.

Great to see that the government expects our power to be 90% generated from clean renewable sources. Wood waste burning, however, is “green” only if our net amount of wood being grown in the province is stable or growing. Such is not currently the case. The throne speech says that this will be changed.

Carbon sequestration is not defined in the throne speech. It could mean that coal fired power plants will be many years away. If, however, the government will use carbon trading credits to “offset” the coal plants then the scheme is considerably less “green” than it first appears. For environmentalists the heavy metals emitted will be a major concern.

While talking about forestry practises, it would save a lot of Green House Gases, improve the safety of our highways, and lower the price for diesel fuel if logs stopped being exported from the province. The closer to the source our processing plants exist the less energy is needed.

Lastly, here on Vancouver Island, can we finally see some real funds put into a serious rail commuter option? All it will take is the initial funding, cheap in comparison to adding another highway, or even widening the Malahat. When combined with updated public transportation in each city we could see a lot fewer motor vehicles on the highway. And while we are at it, why not do some green shifting so as to get more truck loads put on to the rails? This is safer, greener, and more sustainable.

Important details such as how the new building standards will be established, how homeowners will be able to get assistance in making their buildings warmer, how participants will be selected for the Climate Action Team and Citizen’s Conservation Council all need to be answered. When will we see the new Energy Plan and know just how these details will be accomplished?

A bold step, to be sure. The devil is in the details.

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