May 10, 2013

The Green Part of Green


Unlike a number of green advocates, political and otherwise, I think there can be some significant benefit for British Columbians from the development of LNG exports, particularly if issues around the supply and pricing of electricity, and the regulation and offset of industry GHG emissions are properly addressed. Nevertheless, I do agree with those who argue that LNG won’t bring the unprecedented riches that our indefatigable even if deluded premier would have us believe.

However, what worries me about the Green party position on LNG is not so much their assessment of the economic benefits from LNG. Rather it is their suggestion that somehow the development of wind, run-of-river and other such renewable energy would be a much more beneficial industry for British Columbians to pursue. Aside from the fact that developing renewable energy is not a substitute in any sense for the development of LNG for export, it makes no economic or environmental sense to implement policy that would accelerate the development of those projects in British Columbia.

Of course British Columbia has more renewable energy sources that it could develop. The catch though is that British Columbians would have to pay for it. There are no lucrative export markets waiting for high cost, B.C. renewable energy supply. And if there were, projects serving those markets would be going ahead. The Greens call for additional renewable supply would only come about if BC Hydro were forced to buy or develop  more such energy sources than it otherwise needs or could justify.

If that sounds familiar, it is. The Greens are essentially calling for a renewal and presumably expansion of the Liberals’ widely discredited Energy Plan. As we now know, that plan forced BC Hydro to buy renewable energy it did not need, imposing losses of hundreds of millions of dollars per year — losses that have contributed greatly to the sharp, upward pressure on BC Hydro rates. It was not a good economic strategy for anyone but the IPP industry that got contracts for power it could not otherwise sell. It is no wonder that the IPP industry lobby group, BC Clean, is supportive of the Greens’ renewable energy position.

As for the environment, it is never a good strategy to build projects we don’t need and that are not in the broad public interest. Renewable energy projects may not emit GHGs, but they can have significant land and resource effects. It would be far better for the environment to concentrate on conservation and energy efficiency than to go back to the Liberals’ discredited Energy Plan. Study after study indicate there is tremendous economic conservation potential that for a variety of reasons we have not yet exploited.

There will be green and renewable energy industry pressure on whatever party forms the next government to force BC Hydro to develop or buy renewable energy we don’t need and can’t justify. It’s the ‘green’ thing to do. But I would argue it is ‘green’ pressure we should try to resist for it will, as it has in the recent past, raise green issues of a different kind.

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