In his letter, Verne Bystrom dismisses German solar energy efforts by saying electricity rates in Germany are close to the highest in the world and he is correct. What he misses is the fact that Germans are the most energy efficient citizens in the world, as reported July 19 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Canadians ranked 10th out of the 23 countries studied.
Clearly, Germans have learned that energy is a valuable commodity that should be treated with the utmost care and respect. Canadians still have a long way to go to reach that same understanding.
Later in his letter, Mr. Bystrom states that hydroelectricity in BC produces some of the lowest cost green electricity.
Again, Mr. Bystrom is missing some critical information. The latest research indicates that hydropower reservoirs produce both methane and carbon dioxide. Methane is about 35 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide over the span of a century and over 20 years, it’s 84 times more potent.
In 2012 study, researchers in Singapore found that greenhouse gas emissions from hydropower reservoirs globally are likely greater than previously estimated, warning that “rapid hydropower development and increasing carbon emissions from hydroelectric reservoirs to the atmosphere should not be downplayed.”
And if hydroelectric power is so cheap, why is BC Hydro so indebted? According to Moody’s Investors Service, BC Hydro was $18.1 billion in debt as of March 31. Independent energy analyst Arthur Caldicott estimates that BC Hydro’s actual debt is $76 billion when long term payments due to independent power producers and deferred debt is included.
Nelson Hydro’s community solar garden project is innovative and market-making when the utility could just be passive and market-following. That said, I would much rather the utility assisted more energy efficiency efforts by its customers, especially those on fixed and limited incomes. And I would rather the utility do more to assist customers to become their own energy producers so it could more quickly exploit ways to reduce the $6 million it pays to FortisBC annually for extra power.
The City of Nelson could facilitate this by mandating efficiency targets and doing more to encourage net zero energy homes being constructed in the city.
In summary, we should all find ways to increase the amount of energy we get from the sun. Instead of criticizing our city’s initial efforts, we should prod our utility to move more quickly. And our primary focus should be on how to use less energy, not on how to keep it cheap so we can more easily waste it.