I’m looking forward to catching the Vancouver premier of Powerful: Energy for Everyone, a new documentary about our dysfunctional global energy system, and how we might fix it. Filmmaker David Chernushenko promises to “tackle the spin of the big energy lobby and dispel the myths of a ‘green utopia’ envisioned by many.” The film is billed as a candid examination of what a sustainable future may actually look like. It’s Friday afternoon at SFU Woodwards, part of the Projecting Change Film Festival. A clip from the film appears below.
A notice from Clark appears after the jump below. In it, she reaffirms B.C.’s commitment to its carbon tax, and also the Western Climate Initiative — a critical regional cap-and-trade agreement scheduled to begin in early 2012. Both provide critical policy signals to investors that the province is serious about a clean-energy economy. Clark also states that she is open to the idea of possibly using future carbon tax proceeds to fund public transit. (Hey, now we’re talking!)
I am delighted to let you all know that I have accepted a full-time position with Tides Canada, a national foundation tackling a wide range of social and ecological challenges. To quote our boilerplate, “we pool the best ideas, strategies, people, and capital to achieve the greatest impacts on the key environmental and social issues of our time.”
In my case, the issue in question is climate, and the solution is energy. I’ll be working with the gifted Merran Smith—the former climate director of ForestEthics—on the recently established Tides Canada Energy Initiative. My role in part is to support, advance, and help host productive conversations around low-carbon energy, to diversify Canada’s energy system and advance climate solutions.
Are you as sick of Earth Day stories as I am? Then I implore you to read The New Grand Tour, a long and masterful piece of reporting in The Walrus.
Chris Turner, author of The Geography of Hope, takes a trip around the clean-energy and green-economy innovations of present-day Europe. It’s an inspiring piece of reporting, with stops in pedestrian and bicycle haven Copenhagen, a ride on Spain’s AVE high-speed rail network, and a visit to a solar generating station. Turner visits with a couple who live in a passivhaus (like the new one in Whistler, btw). They lay out their energy bills on the kitchen table to show how the economics make dollars and Eurocents, given the right enabling policies.
In 2008, Harald Müller and Barbara Braun paid €398.69 (about $560) for their electricity consumption and €332.81 for their heat consumption. The same year, they were paid €3,750.29 for the electricity produced by the solar panels on their roof. Their net revenue totalled €3,018.79. They estimate that they’re still a few years from fully paying off their household power plant, but by 2012 or so they’ll be looking at more than a decade of pure profit.
This is the rub. “Going green” is not about hemp shopping bags and grapefruit-based cleansers, folks. It’s about public infrastructure and liveable cities. It’s about public policies that turn every rooftop into a cash machine.
Scared of subsidies? Then maybe it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that, according to an Ecojustice investigation, Canada’s oil and gas industry enjoys roughly a billion dollars a year in handouts. In 2006, the United States oil and gas industry received USD$3.06 Billion in federal subsidies, while the nation’s coal industry received USD$2.8 Billion.
The Stern Review estimated that the fossil-fuel industries globally receive about USD$150 billion per year. Subsidies for renewables and incentives for energy efficiency together receive about UDS$9 billion.
In other words, we’re already paying subsidies. And we’re not getting much out of them but deep trouble.
Last week, Plutonic Power–one of Western Canada’s largest green-power developers–invited me and a few other journalists to tour a 123-megawatt run-of-river project that the company is building at the top end of the Toba Valley, about 110 miles due northwest of Vancouver.
In essence, these projects capture the kinetic energy of falling water without the massive negative impacts associated with dam construction, and they’re causing quite a stir out here on Canada’s West Coast, where geography and hydrology combine to create tremendous green-power potential.
When it is completed by the middle of next year, this will be the largest green-power project of its kind in the province. I went on the trip to try and see first-hand what many run-of-river opponents say are extensive negative environmental impacts.
For my on-the-ground and in-the-air report, including video clips, check out Backstage Tour at a Run-of-River Power Plant, over at the Huffington Post.
Just back from an absolutely fascinating trip to The Power House at Stave Falls, in Mission B.C., just 40 miles east of Vancouver. This 52.5-megawatt hydroelectric plant fed sustainable energy into the region’s grid between 1912 and 2000, when it was decommissioned and replaced with a more efficient powerhouse just to the east. Anyone with an interest in green energy would love this easy day trip from Vancouver.
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