Saturday, March 28, 2009

Implications of opposition to Green Power

Numerous people opposing green power production on the grounds that it is damaging to the environment - not that I have seen any substantive data from a project that has been received an environmental assessment certificate to show that run of the river power projects have negative environmental impacts. Andrew Weaver has a well written piece about the lack of data and scientific backing to the anti-green power people.

Various people say we should use less energy - fine, but the way to to do this is raise electrical rates to something crushingly high or to ration electrical power. Try selling the idea of paying $0.15 a KWh for electrical power in BC, not this is high enough to reduce demand enough.

There is a huge swath of electrical power in North America produced by coal fired power. To take this offline through conservation over 20 years means we would have to use 57% less electricity per person than we do now. This means no electrical heating - the most common heating source for renters. No plug in hybrids.

This is not to say that we should not work on conservation, though conservation will happen when we raise the prices of power, a lot. In most of the US the electrical rates are already much higher than here and consumption has not plummeted.

No green power here means the power has to come from somewhere else. The grid in North America, or I should say the three grids, are integrated across national and regional political boundaries. BC is not in isolation with respect to power, we are intimately connected to Alberta, the Western US and Baja California. That whole grid needs a specific amount of power. If it does not come from run of the river in BC, it will come from tradional sources like coal and natural gas or possibly some other sources, all of which are somewhere on the Pacific side of North America.

If we can nto be shown to be a source for a lot of green power through things like run of the river, other juridictions will seek other energy sources. Bruce Power has said they are going forward with plans to build a nuclear power plant near Peace River Alberta. Alberta released a report last week on nuclear power. Bruce Power is also looking at nuclear in Saskatchewan.

Ontario specifically has chosen to go further down the nuclear path because of the Kyoto Accord.

Few other renewable energy sources are as cheap as run of the river in BC. A number of them are not yet inexpensive enough to be able to compete with coal and other traditional fuels. The first wave energy operations are coming into being, but the costs remain high. The same with solar.

Wind is being roundly condemned by people as being ugly and intrusive on the landscape. Some people even claim health impacts from the wind turbines. Wind also remains expensive.

In the short term, that is the next five to ten years, lack of numerous run of the river projects in BC will lead to more natural gas fired power plants being built and coal fired plants continue operating. If the opposition does not end soon and if we see projects stopped, this will push more and more jurisdictions to build nuclear power plants.

So irrational opposition to green power here will have major energy policy impacts elsewhere. It also impacts the finances of the province of BC. Each Bute Inlet scale project, and we could easily have 100 or more on the coast of BC with no impact on wildlife, should annually net governments about $60 000 000 a year in taxes. I am only talking about watersheds that are currentlypart of the timber harvesting land base or are already within a developed region.

If we add 1000GWh of green power per year in BC for the next 20 years, the governments will have close to an extra $500 000 000 a year to spend. About 4% of the budget by then.

Since the gird we are part of is more north south and east west almost all of the revenues from green power would be money flowing from the US to Canada, helping with our national current account. We have to balance all the things we buy from the US such as food, computers, movies along with all the money we spend in the US. This is a good way for us to protect our macro-economic health and save the environment at the same time.

The construction of the projects are a large inflow of capital into BC. We are not asked to pay for the capital costs to build these projects as we are with government infrastructure. The influx of capital investment into BC will increase the net value of the province.

There are so many upsides. I am at a complete loss as to understand the rationale for the opposition.

1 comment:

BustaGrill said...

"There are so many upsides. I am at a complete loss as to understand the rationale for the opposition."

Then you are either an idiot, or completely out of your depth. Read this:

And this:

If we had a rigorous land-use planning process, and an environmental assessment process that wasn't a farce, we could choose the best environmental siting for projects, and fast-track them, as Drs. Suzuki and Moola suggest.

Instead we have a free-for-all and jackasses like you characterizing people who want some common sense and democracy and sound land use planning as "anti-green power". This sort of polarizing characterization is completely unproductive. Andrew Weaver is one hell of a respectable climate modeler, but he is not an ecologist, and he has a reputation for spouting off. So when he says calls for more planning are "fundamentally not serious", I say he too is fundamentally out of his depth.

This is not about pro-green power or anti-green power. This is about the future of renewable energy development in BC, and we can't afford to get it wrong. Even if we were able to dramatically reduce GHG emissions today the thermal inertia of the oceans will continue to drive climate change for decades and will require adaptive responses. The last thing we should do is carve up our precious coastal ecosystems with roads, powerlines, and water pipelines without giving the most rigorous consideration to how and where we do it, just in the name of saving them from climate change.

"Each Bute Inlet scale project, and we could easily have 100 or more on the coast of BC with no impact on wildlife..."

No impact on wildlife? Indeed, you are way out of your depth here. Maybe you should leave this conversation to the grown-ups.