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Quiet progress on energy alternative front

Terrace, BC group preparing efforts to reduce overall energy use

MARK Twain once joked that everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it. Replace "weather" with "climate" and his argument may no longer hold, and to some degree, did not even in his own time.

Solid science has revealed that our long-term climate warming really began with the transition of human economies from wood to coal, well before Twain was even born. The later transition to oil, combined with the accelerated growth of the human population, simply upped the pace.

Now, despite the noisy rhetoric pretending there is still some doubt about anthropogenic (human-caused) climatic warming, more and more North Americans (government, corporate and individual) are actively doing something about it (Canada’s federal Conservative government being a notable exception with its continued boosterism for all things oil and gas—no surprise there). Terrace, too, is quietly joining the process, as we shall see.

In the United States, long a holdout against organized action to combat climate change, a federal court recently backed the Environmental Protection Agency against legal challenges that would have prevented the agency from mandating mileage standards for new vehicles and regulating power plant emissions. Even Texas has a renewable energy program enabling huge amounts of wind generation capacity and improving transmission capacity to deliver the power. Texas??!

Why not? Basic technology for solar energy is improving rapidly. Photovoltaic developers have improved efficiency to where prices have begun to reach grid parity, particularly in developing countries such as India, where “small is beautiful” distributed generation projects (rooftop solar, for example) lessen the need for extended transmission grids.

Big business, too, is getting with the program. IBM Corporation recently surveyed 130 businesses whose revenues are $1 billion and up about energy efficiency. All were involved in “selection of technology to support environmental, real estate and/or sustainable asset management initiatives,” some more successful than others.

Successful companies involved executive management throughout, as well as teams for planning and execution. “Achiever” companies rank sustainability as a top-five priority within real estate and facilities’ concerns.

So what’s happening here?

In 2007, provincial legislation (Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act) called for reducing the province’s greenhouse gas emissions at least 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050.

BC Hydro has sponsored CEEP, the Community Energy and Emissions Planning framework to help local governments formulate and implement their own planning. Local representatives and interested citizens participated in a Jan. 16 preparatory webinar with CEEP planners, and on Jan. 23 met locally to try to develop Terrace’s own version of an energy and emissions plan. Ultimately, any plan would require adoption by city council and would include a report to BC Hydro, all aiming to save electricity, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and save money.

Cash savings is particularly appealing. Few citizens welcome the heavy hand of regulation, but if it can be shown that plan co-operation results in tangible financial and quality of life benefits, we are more likely to buy in. Given that Terrace citizens spend about $3,000 per person per year on energy, most of which money leaves the community, wouldn’t it make sense to create plans allowing us to keep progressively more of that money at home?

Planning models approach the problem on numerous fronts: how we use energy for mobility fuels and for heating and appliances in our homes and buildings, how we process and utilize waste, and how we organize our community with respect to occupation density and infrastructure distribution.

The planning outline is comprehensive, well-organized, and already based on Terrace data provided in our recent OCP, including calculators for potential energy savings.

Terrace is quietly and commendably preparing to co-operate with other British Columbians to combat unwanted climate change. To steal a phrase from our local recycling entrepreneurs, let’s do our part.

Al Lehmann is a retired teacher living in Terrace, BC.