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Geothermal more economical than Site C

Today I attended a press conference hosted by the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA) announcing the release of a new report entitled: “Geothermal Energy: The Renewable and Cost Effective Alternative to Site C”. Immediately following the start of the press conference, we released the press statement below.

Over the last two years, I have repeatedly called on the government to explore innovative new opportunities in the clean technology sector. Most recently, I issued a press release calling on the provincial government to broaden BC Hydro’s scope to allow for the development of a geothermal power capacity in the province of British Columbia.

I’ve also expressed concern regarding the effect of burgeoning debt on our overall credit rating should Site C be approved. This is particularly relevant in light of the existence of more cost-effective alternatives.

Below is the text of our press release.


Media Statement: November 25, 2014
Geothermal more economical than Site C
For immediate release

Victoria, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head and Deputy Leader of the B.C. Green Party welcomes the findings of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA) report, released today, entitled “Geothermal Energy: The Renewable and Cost Effective Alternative to Site C”.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Geothermal unit energy cost conservatively estimated at 7.3¢/kWh compared to BC Hydro’s 8.3¢/kWh for Site C.
  • Geothermal plant construction equalling the energy output of the proposed Peace River dam is estimated at $3.3 billion compared to at least $7.9 billion for Site C.
  • Geothermal plants provide more permanent jobs that are distributed across British Columbia.
  • For the same power production, the total physical and environmental footprint of geothermal projects would be substantially smaller than Site C.

British Columbia has significant potential to develop geothermal and other renewable energy projects throughout the province. Such projects would distribute energy production where it is required and allow power to be brought online as demand increases.

“This is a timely report that clearly validates geothermal energy as a viable, more cost-effective alternative to Site C,” notes Andrew Weaver. “Geothermal projects are cheaper to build, provide power at a more economical rate, have a minimal environmental footprint, and generate more permanent jobs throughout the province.”

“In light of this new announcement, it’s clear that the government should not proceed with the Site C project at this time,” said Weaver. “There are simply too many cheaper alternatives available to protect the ratepayer. The clean energy sector is eagerly awaiting a more fiscally-responsible investment decision that would provide employment and development opportunities across the province.”

The full CanGEA report can be found at www.cangea.ca.

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Media Contact
Mat Wright – Press Secretary, Andrew Weaver MLA
Mat.Wright@leg.bc.ca
Cell: 1 250 216 3382

Weaver calls on BC Government to broaden BC Hydro scope to allow for production of geothermal power

Media Statement: July 9th, 2014

Weaver calls on BC Government to broaden BC Hydro’s scope to allow for production of geothermal power

For Immediate Release

Vancouver, B.C. – Today, Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Deputy Leader of the B.C. Green Party, joined Gwen Johansson, the Mayor of Hudson’s Hope, as she released an independent report on the impacts of and the alternatives to the Site C project. Building on the findings of this report, Weaver is calling on the Provincial government to broaden BC Hydro’s scope to allow for the development of a geothermal power capacity in the province of British Columbia.

The Joint Review Panel (JRP) for the Site C dam released their report in early May. They found that the proposed project would result in significant and irreversible community and environmental impacts, and that there has not been sufficient assessment of the effects of rising electricity rates, advancing technology and energy conservation. They further noted that the accuracy of project cost estimates could not be confirmed because they did not have the information, time or resources. The Panel concluded that more work needed to be done and recommended a thorough review by the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC).

The independent report released today by Mayor Johansson builds upon the findings of the JRP and proposes a number of cost effective alternatives to the Site C dam.

“It’s easy to believe that developing alternatives is always something that’s on the horizon,” said Weaver. “But with renewable resources like geothermal, British Columbia is actually falling further and further behind the rest of the world. If you look along the West coast of North America, and indeed throughout the entire Pacific Rim, the only jurisdiction that isn’t using its geothermal resources is British Columbia.”

Geothermal is only one of a number of different options identified in this report that are likely to produce power cheaper than Site C, while meeting the clean energy demands of this Province.

The Site C dam, if built, would be situated on the Peace River. It would produce 1,100 MW of power capacity and up to 5,100 GWh of electricity each year at an estimated cost of $7.9 billion dollars.

The construction of the Site C dam will flood 6,427 acres of Class 1 & 2 agricultural land, which includes the only Class 1 agricultural land north of Quesnel. The affected Treaty 8 Tribal Association has already expressed a number of serious concerns regarding the Site C dam proposal.

The Minister of Energy and Mines has stated that the decision as to whether or not Site C receives environmental certification will come sometime around September.

“The Province should take this opportunity to pause and explore whether geothermal energy could provide the same quantity of stable, reliable power, but in a more fiscally and environmentally prudent fashion and in a way that fosters partnerships with First Nations, while providing greater and more diverse job opportunities across the Province.” said Weaver.

Media Contact
Mat Wright – Press Secretary, Andrew Weaver MLA
mat.wright@leg.bc.ca
1 250 216 3382

 

Responding to the B.C. Budget

Weaver Responds to B.C. Budget
For immediate release
February 21st, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – “This budget represents a cynical ploy by handing out financial goodies a few months before an election,” says Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party. “It pretends to tackle issues that should have been dealt with years ago. It is politicking with public interests.

“Two years ago, I brought forward a progressive way to eliminate MSP premiums through income taxes, but the government did not act. I brought it up again the next year, and the government made a few minor changes. Now they are making a substantial reduction in MSP premiums for some British Columbians – on the eve of an election.

“This is political opportunism, pure and simple. Although the financial break is an improvement for many British Columbians, the 2017 budget clearly demonstrates that the B.C. Liberals govern by political calculation, not by what is right for the people of B.C.

“This government’s manipulation of voters’ hopes and needs is an insult to the very real anxieties British Columbians face. The B.C. Green Party will put people at the heart of our decision making. We are ready to replace Christy Clark’s contriving government with principled leadership this May.”

Additional quotes on specific sections of the B.C. Budget continued below.

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca


Additional Quotes from Andrew Weaver


“The mindset that is used across the board with this government is ‘many of you are struggling because of our policies, we’ll help a select few of you.’ Rather than addressing the root issues, they are choosing who is worthy of support, based on their ideology. They are picking winners and losers, in our communities and in business:

Affordability

“How can the government afford all these selective investments? The answer is, of course, on the backs of British Columbians. The B.C. Liberals stood by and watched the affordability of B.C. get dragged to an international extreme, to the extent that many can no longer afford to live in the communities they were born and raised in.

“This budget includes 2,000 additional units of affordable housing, which is a start, but this government has dragged tens of thousands of citizens into an affordability crisis.

“This budget provides no relief for low-income renters. Rental assistance programs are simply being maintained at current levels, which is completely inadequate in the face of the out of control rental market. Those struggling to pay rent and seniors struggling to stay in their homes as they age find no help in this budget.

“Now, instead of helping those most in need, the B.C. Liberals are catering to their friends at the top and the demographics they think will vote for them.”

Medical Services Plan Premiums

“The reduction in MSP premiums is a welcome change for many, particularly those with moderate incomes, for whom the premiums are a significant drain.

“However, MSP remains a flat tax, with someone making $42,001 per year paying the same premiums as someone making $120,000.

“Moreover, this government made no commitment and provided no timeline for how they will eliminate MSP premiums entirely.”

Poverty reduction

“Refusing, for the 10th year in a row, to increase social assistance rates is an unconscionable decision. This government is boasting about posting surpluses, yet we have the third highest poverty rate in the country, and this government has refused to increase social assistance rates for the past 10 years. People surviving on social assistance today receive only $610 per month, the same rate since 2007. They rely on food banks to eat.

“The prevailing ideology of this government is that jobs are the only pathway to dignity, and that people on social assistance are simply choosing not to work, and therefore do not deserve adequate support, nor do their children deserve adequate support. ”

Seniors

“This budget is noticeably silent on funding for seniors care.”

Energy

“The B.C. Liberals are still banking on an LNG future for the province, with no mention of wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, or renewable resource development. In fact, the only mention of clean energy in the budget document is made in reference to the ‘Site C Clean Energy project.’

“Eliminating PST for commercial customers strikes me as a transparent giveaway to try to incentivize a non-existent LNG industry and rationalize the construction of Site C dam.”

Environment

“The budget items on ‘environmental protection’ would be laughable if they weren’t so devastating for the environment in our province.

“The B.C. government’s selective protection of wildlife is a disaster. They’ve let the biodiversity of our province become more endangered than anywhere else in the country and destroyed habitats to the point of local extinction. We have more at risk species than any other province – but this government singles out caribou – and only caribou – for protection. Caribou recovery is, of course, a praiseworthy initiative, but these populations are in crisis because the government permitted the destruction of their critical habitat in the first place.

“In this budget we get more money for park rangers and campsites. While welcome investments, they have more to do with people than the environment. The 1,900 new campsites will be built into existing parks, replacing wild habitats. There will be no additional funding in the next three years for the Conservation Officer Service or the environmental protection, sustainability, or enhancement initiatives.

“That this government would consider $5 million for the SPCA as a commitment to environmental protection is an outrageous testament to the utter disregard this government holds for the environment. The SPCA does laudable work protecting the welfare of domestic and farm animals, but it is transparently not in the business of environmental protection.”

Transportation

“Regarding clean transportation, they’ve neglected innovation in favour of merely re-announcing an old program.

“Instead of actively supporting the expansion of clean transportation, this government is merely providing static funding for an existing program, premised on an assumption of no increase in demand.”

Not too late to change course on Site C dam

Since becoming an MLA I have visited the proposed location of the Site C dam on the Peace River twice. Most recently, on Aug. 23, I travelled a section of the river with a group of concerned community members. It’s hard to fathom the scale of planned development unless you see it in person, just as it’s hard to grasp the human and cultural cost of this project until you listen to the people caught in the middle of it.

Dam construction would flood more than 5,000 hectares of land – drowning homes, traditional lands, scores of culturally important sites, and 15,985 acres of agricultural land.

Local and indigenous people in the area are being systematically stripped of their livelihood and culture by one arm of government, while receiving apologies for past injustices and promises of reconciliation from another.

Compounding the environmental, historical, cultural and agricultural damages is a reckless disregard of energy economics.

Since 2005, domestic demand for electricity in B.C. has been essentially flat, but over the next 20 years BC Hydro forecasts our energy needs will increase by about 40 per cent as a consequence of both population and economic growth. They are selling Site C as the solution to this growing electricity demand, but their argument doesn’t hold water.

Upon completion, the dam would produce 1,100 MW (megawatts, i.e. millions of Watts) of power capacity and up to 5,100 GWh (gigawatt hours, i.e. billions of watt hours) of electricity each year.

Currently only about 1.5 per cent of B.C.’s electricity production is supplied by wind energy (compared to roughly 20 per cent in P.E.I.). With our mountainous terrain and coastal boundary, the potential for both onshore and offshore wind power production is enormous. The Canadian Wind Energy Association and the BC Hydro Integrated Resource Plan 2013 indicate that 5,100 GWh of wind-generated electricity could be produced in B.C. for about the same price as the electricity to be produced by the Site C dam.

A report by the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association noted B.C. also has substantial untapped potential for firm, on demand, geothermal power which could be developed where power is needed.

While costs associated with Site C will be borne by provincial taxpayers (a price tag that will eventually be much more than BC Hydro’s estimate of roughly $9 billion), solar, wind and geothermal project risks are covered by industry.  Alternative sources coupled with existing dams could provide enough energy to meet the needs of British Columbians, with the potential to scale up as needed. They would also provide better economic opportunities to local communities and First Nations across the province, with lower impacts on traditional territories.

Instead of a diversified approach to renewable energy, the B.C. government is pushing Site C because they want to offer LNG proponents access to firm power. As I have been explaining for years, however, there will be no B.C. LNG industry in the foreseeable future because of a global glut in natural gas and plummeting prices for imported LNG in Asia. As the government desperately doubles down on LNG, renewable projects are moving elsewhere. Just this year they let a $750 million US investment to build wind capacity on Vancouver Island slip away, despite buy-in from five First Nations, TimberWest, EDP Renewables and the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

I wanted to see how much has been done when I visited Site C this summer. Nothing has passed a point of no return. Proceeding with Site C is actively driving clean energy investment out of the province, but it is not too late to correct our province’s power trajectory.

An Exciting Opportunity for Tourism & Economic Development in Rural BC

Valemount_BC_signThe community of Valemount is located on Southern Yellowhead Highway 5, twenty kilometres south of the intersection with Yellowhead Highway 16 that connects Prince George to Edmonton. With a population (including the surrounding area) of about 2000, Valemount, like so many other rural communities in BC, used to have a forestry-based economy. In the case of Valemount, it was the Slocan mill that was the engine of their local economy. But that mill shut down for good over a decade ago.

The people of Valemount and their elected Mayor and Council were resilient. Today Valemount has emerged as a tourism centre in northeastern British Columbia. And it’s about to get a whole lot more exciting.

Mt_RobsonValemount is a natural hub for ecotourism. It is a fully serviced community sitting next to Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park. It’s also located near the head of Kinbasket Lake, created when BC Hydro’s Mica Dam was built on the Canoe River. Canoe river is the northernmost tributary within the Columbia River drainage basin. McLennan river, one of the easternmost tributaries of the Fraser River also flows along the northern edge of Valemount.

_DSC7039 - CopyWhether it be skiing or snowshoeing in the winter or white water rafting, fishing, hiking or even golfing in the summer, Valemount has a diverse array of outdoor activities for the young and old. The town’s push to become an ecotourism hub even extends to the town’s high school, home to about 75 students. In 2012, the school became branded as a  “mountain school”. The school developed curriculum and learning resources and activities involving outdoor and environmental themes in an attempt to arrest declining enrollment in the area.

Over the last few months I became more and more intrigued about the proposed Valemount Glacier Destination year round ski and sightseeing resort.

On Friday last week, shortly before meeting to learn more from key executives in the Pheidias group, Valemount Glacier Destination’s project proponent, I also met with Gord Stewart, Senior Vice President, and Philip Hochstein, President, of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC (ICBA). As noted on their website:

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. services and represents B.C.’s construction sector. ICBA’s 1,100 members build in the multi-family residential and Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) construction sectors and are involved in virtually all major capital projects in British Columbia.

The purpose of my visit to the ICBA was to connect with Mr. Hochstein about his work with the ICBA and to learn more about the objectives and priorities of the ICBA and its member organizations. Our conversation centred around responsible resource development. The discussion was far reaching. I emphasized the need for bottom-up project development that starts with community involvement from day one, businesses internalizing externalities, and government clearly outlining and enforcing the regulatory environment and ensuring compliance with it. We both agreed that the construction industry recognizes that project development must be done responsibly. Mr. Hochstein’s challenge to me, a challenge that I accepted, was to define for him what “responsibly” means. I will be working on that in the weeks ahead.

This is an important challenge since in British Columbia, it seems like it is impossible for any resource project to move forward without meeting substantive resistance. In a forthcoming piece I will outline a number of key reasons why I perceive this to be the case as well as solutions as to how we might collectively move forward. The number one reason in my forthcoming post is this:

  1. Bottom up project development. Before a project can even get off the ground, local towns and First Nation communities must be treated as partners. After all, our natural resources are more often than not located in traditional First Nation territory and the back yards of our rural communities. Attempting to market a project to a community in a top-down fashion is bound to fail. On the other hand, if First Nations and local towns are supportive, they will become the strongest advocates for the projects.

So what has this got to do with Valemount Glacier Destination — absolutely everything. Some of you might have been following the controversy surrounding a proposed ski development at Jumbo Glacier. Not only was the nearby town of Invermere opposed to the project, but so were the Ktunaxa Nation who ended up in the Supreme Court. But in every failure is the birth of a new opportunity and that is what is playing out now in Valemount.

In a rare example of community-driven success, the genesis of the entire project was actually a phone call from a small citizen delegation authorized by the mayor and council of Valemount in 2011. The phone call was a simple request that Oberto Oberti, distinguished architect and president of the Pheidias Group, consider a proposal similar to what was proposed in the Jumbo Valley for the Valemount area. The Valemount delegation (which would go on to form the Valemount Ski Society), outlined how a project with good elevations (over 3000m), summer skiing on glaciers, as well as world-class year-round sight seeing could be achieved in the immediate area around Valemount, but better still, without the construction of significant new roads into remote valleys. In short, a world-class high alpine development could be achieved in the front country of the Robson Valley, in a busier highway, with a more exclusive existing market-base (Edmonton and Jasper) as opposed to the more competitive market base of Calgary, Banff and the Kootenays. A project in Valemount would also be located very close to, but not within the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Mt. Robson Provincial, and Jasper National Parks. Oberto Oberti’s first action after receiving the phone call was to arrange a meeting with the Simpcw Nation. The resulting collaboration of local support has survived three changes in Mayor and Council at both the municipality of Valemount and the Simpcw First Nation and no organized opposition has yet to come forward against the project.

After some initial seed money to achieve a Master Development Agreement, a small group of Vancouver based investors who founded Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd. was joined by Greg Marchant and Hunter Milborne of a larger Toronto investment community. As such, a very rare kind of project has emerged in which a small town joined forces with the local First Nation, solicited expertise from Vancouver, and will build Phase One entirely with no real estate pre-sales with Canadian investment. The undertones of Nation Building can not be denied in this aligning of forces. The Canadian investors are already lined up to make this project a reality and open for skiing by the time the 2017/18 ski season gets underway. But of course, that’s only if the BC government will give its final approval.

So what’s special about this project. I encourage you to see for yourself by browsing through the 325 page Master Plan. In particular, have a look at Appendix 3, Valemount Resort Environmental Impact Assessment put together by Vancouver-based Enkon Environmental Limited. I’ve seen  a number of Environmental Assessments over the years and this one strikes me as a particularly fine example of what can be done.

The Pheidias Group have a vision for an environmentally sensitive year round ecotourism resort that will provide visitors to British Columbia with another destination rivaling that of Whister-Blackcomb. It will give visitors stunning views of Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. The peak elevation of the site is on Mt. Arthur Meighen (3,205 metres). Compare this to the peak elevations at Whistler (2,240m), Blackcomb (2,440m),  Sun Peaks (2,080m), Mount Washington (1,588m), and Big White (2,319). The high peak elevation is such that skiing on glaciers will likely be year round for quite some time to come. In addition, this elevation, coupled with a more northerly location bodes well for long term operations in light of ongoing global warming and the increased likelihood of more precipitation at lower elevations and latitudes in the form of rain instead of snow in the years ahead. What’s more, the resort has the potential to be carbon neutral by tapping into the nearby 5.7 MW Hystad Creek small scale hydro project. There’s also incredible geothermal energy potential in the region.

After meeting with the Pheidias Group, peppering them with questions, taking copious notes, and subsequently reading the Master Plan, it’s clear to me that this is an exciting project that I am keen to see move forward. So what’s the delay?

The irony is that for a government so proud of touting the “let’s get to yes” mantra and so chuffed with itself for proclaiming in law that the first Wednesday in March is “Red Tape Reduction Day“, the delay falls squarely in the realm of government red tape precluding the project from getting to yes.

The project is six months behind and the latest layer of red tape is a bizarre new requirement for a four lane 80 km/hr highway to take skiers on an 8km journey from Valemount to the Resort Base village.

Valemount Glacier Destination is an ecologically sensitive project that will provide an incredible economic stimulus to northeastern BC. In the words of Oberto Oberti, President of the Pheidias Group, “We want to work with nature, not against nature”.

If the BC government spent a fraction of the energy they are spending in a desperate attempt to land a hypothetical LNG facility on actually moving real projects forward, we would be leading North America in the development of a 21st century diversified economy.

The “forces of no” within the BC Liberal government really need to “get to yes” in a timely fashion on this project.