Vancouver Sun energy blog by Scott Simpson: I have a story in today’s Vancouver Sun about the green economy conference that took place Tuesday, sponsored by PowerUP Canada. Here’s the link to it:

Meanwhile, there was a lot more talk than I had time, or newspaper space, for.

Here are some interesting comments from some of the participants. These are rough draft transcriptions, so please forgive any fractured grammer or typos. Note I would have included comments here from NDP or anti private power groups, but they chose not to participate in the conference.

Barry Penner, B.C. Environment Minister.

Penner said he was one of the leaders of public opposition to the proposal to build a gas-fired generating plant in Sumas, Washington, just across the Canada-U.S. border from Abbotsford, and recalled the rapid pace at which opposition to that project (which was eventually defeated by the National Energy Board) grew in the Fraser Valley.

"It's very easy to rally people and to get adamant, passionate, to sound principled, about opposing something. And I thought to myself, you know, I will be a hypocrite if I don't put that same amount of energy into supporting something because I know at the end of the day when I come home, I'd like to be able to microwave leftover food, I'd like to be able to count on TV news to find out what's happening and in the morning I enjoy a hot shower — so where are we going to get our energy from?

“We have, I believe, a moral imperative to find solutions and to put our energy behind supporting.
Penner noted that B.C. has introduced North America's “first real carbon tax” — “and it has been opposed by people you think would support something like that.”

"BC Hydro is importing up to 15 per cent of the electricity that's consumed in the province in a given year. The majority actually comes from the United States and about 60 per cent is generated from traditional forms of combusting coal for electricity generation.

"So I don't think it's very good for us to try to pretend that somehow we are a green province by just importing somebody else's electricity that's contributing globally to carbon emissions.

"I think instead of exporting our dollars to purchase dirty electricity we should keep those dollars in British Columbia to build renewable energy projects here, particularly during a time of economic uncertainty, to create good paying construction jobs and long term operating jobs right here in our province. To me that doesn't seem like a very complicated proposition and yet we have fierce opposition — fierce opposition, well funded, well coordinated and slick, advertising and viral emails and things to try to stop us from doing what I thought would be a great thing.

Simon Fraser University energy economist Mark Jaccard, consults all over the world, is working at present on a ‘Global Energy Assessment' with a global team of experts under the umbrella of the the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and on a ‘Renewables Report' for the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"When I'm in those kinds of meetings, [with] writing teams, and we're looking at evidence and talking about circumstances in different parts of the world, there are some common themes there."

Jaccard said he and co-authors begin to realize that each jurisdiction tends to “personalize” the challenges. "We think, ‘Oh, if we are doing a bunch of small scale renewables and some of those have impacts or are controversial, that's the fault of someone.

"Likewise if it's independent power producers who are developing these small scale resources instead of a large publicly owned monolith of some kind. . . we will take a certain position on this and think it's uniquely British Columbian.

"The perspective I want to give, from the work I'm doing, is that a lot of the issues that we think are special to B.C. — and some people might even argue a partisan kind of conspiracy going on in British Columbia — are actually so common to what's going on everywhere else in the world.

"The development of small scale renewables around the planet has been done almost entirely by private companies taking risk — independent power producers.

This has happened in left wing jurisdictions and right wing jurisdictions. It's happened where people really believe in public ownership of their energy system, like Quebec or Manitoba with an NDP government, and it has happened in much more right wing areas as well.

That's an important debate and I think it's great to have that debate but it's really damaging in terms of your green outcome if you are going to roll that debate and assume it's inextricably linked with the debate about. . . ‘Do we need to dramatically increase the amount of renewables we have here in the province?'”

Karen Graham, Senior Policy Analyst, Business Council of BC.
She said the renewables industry can thrive if government creates a supportive environment.

“The most important thing for any jurisdiction is to have favorable hosting conditions. These factors are as relevant to developing green economy and green business as to any other sector. Things like reasonably competitive taxes, efficient and well-designed regulatory processes, access to needed inputs at competitive prices ie labor and materials, route connectivity to key markets, and in the case of advanced technology industries the availability and access to highly qualified people.

B.C. scores reasonably well on many and most of these indicators but on some we need to work a little bit to identify our competitive advantage, especially vis a vis our neighbors to the immediate south."

Dave Crosby, President, Construction, Maintenance & Allied Workers Union Local 2020

“Our local union. . . took a position in support of the call for power put out by BC Hydro and we have been working with the local communities and with local municipalities to try to ensure that this most recent call goes through and we get approvals for the projects. For us, it means jobs. For us it means work in our communities.

"We do recognize differences of opinion over strategies necessary to move forward on the issue of climate change and with the development of green economic issues."

Crosby described as “valid” the concerns of BC Hydro unions about private power development and recognizes that unions “hate” public-private infrastructure partnerships.

However his union wants to see policies that support employment and want to see the renewable power sector expand to include increased employment opportunities in the development of run of river, wind, tidal, biofuel and other green energy sources — as well as retrofits of buildings to achieve greater energy efficiency.

Ian Gill, President, Ecotrust Canada said the organization will announce later this month the establishment of a new fund to finance IPPs.

"Why would a conservation organization do that? Because we believe the need for renewables is very much among us and very present. We believe that IPPs are worth doing. Not all IPPs are created equal. We think there is a right way to go about doing these things and a wrong way to go about doing these things just in the same way we feel there's a right way to do forestry, to fish, there is a right way to extract resources in this province. We've spent about a century and a half convincing ourselves about how to do it the wrong way. We think we should be participating, not just at a policy level, but even at the level of providing capital for what is a very large and important and growing sector in our economy."

Art Sterrit, Executive Director, Coastal First Nation, which encompasses 15,000 aboriginals living on the central coast.

He said Hydro's overall approach to the development of an independent power sector is “uncoordinated and not strategic” and called on the crown corporation to make clear all aspects of renewable resource development in order to solidify first nations support for private power development.

“From our perspective it's essentially a system of rolling the dice. By placing a call out for proposals without criteria, without consideration for a long term strategy related to a green economy, and without an export plan, it leaves first nations in a very precarious position.”