Thursday, March 25, 2010

Opposition to Run of River Offbase

My column in this week's 24 hours:

This week Vancouver is hosting Globe 2010, one of the biggest green business conferences in the world with over 10,000 people attending. Green business is becoming a big industry globally and here in BC it is our economy of the future, though there is an element of the left that opposes this.

One green business area BC excels at is in energy. We have the potential to produce enough new green electricity to make a significant difference to climate change. Our steep mountains with fast flowing streams and rivers are perfect for micro hydro projects. Since half of North America's electricity is still coal fired, there is a need for BC to build green power capacity quickly if there is going to be any reduction in CO2 emissions.

There is a track record now to show run of the river really delivers what it promises, electricity with no measurable impact to the environment. The time is now to speed up the process for bringing more of projects online. To date most of the projects have been one off sites, now we need to see bigger networked proposals like the Plutonic Power Bute Inlet project.

The Bute Inlet project is 17 small facilities networked together to provide enough power for 300,000 houses. Bute Inlet is an area that is actively being logged, has mineral claims and has tourism developments like an airstrip in the most important wildlife habitat. The run of the river sites will have no impact on the area when compared to what is already happening there and will reduce some of the existing environmental damage. Sounds great, but as with it seems with everything on this planet, there are people opposed.

The opposition to green power in BC is not from lobbyists for the coal industry or Sarah Palin wannabes, but from left wing groups claiming to care about the environment. The opposition paints themselves with green rhetoric, but does not provide any evidence of adverse effects of run of the river power production. Their real agenda they have is against for profit businesses and capitalism.

There remains an element in our society that still believes businesses can be of no benefit to the public and certainly can not do things better than the government can. Their ideology means they are opposing an efficient, profitable and effective strategy to combat climate change.

Run of the river power in BC provides us with the greenest power possible, more jobs, more taxes, and profitable companies. It is also providing First Nations with much needed economic development and non-government revenues. Opposing this is nonsensical but ideology takes over and creates an Orwellian mindset where profit means environmental destruction.

Gordon Campbell will go down in history as one of the heroes of environment because his government made it possible for green power to be developed in BC. This decision means private companies are willing to spend tens of billions of dollars in BC on green developments. No ideological double think from the left will change the legacy of this fundamentally positive decision.

1 comment:

Dan Grice said...

There are two separate issues:

1) Is location. A few of the ROR' proposals have occurred in parks or on Salmon bearing streams and these have face wide opposition for good reason in many cases.

2) Is terms and contracts. A few years ago the BC government passed a widespread omnibus bill that removed transparency and there is widespread confusion as to what this means.

Was there a minimum guaranteed buy, so the government would be on the hook to the company if there was a drought. Are the profit margins large enough that the same projects under public control would be a net benefit to tax payers. Is the public share of leasing a stream location really fair to the public or is a private firm who donates $100K a year to the governing party getting a sweetheart deal. Is a 50 year lease on a stream really the best deal.

The government has limited BC Hydro's ability to invest in new projects that are publicly run.

One of the issues with "privatization" is that it is often a scam.

Public assets do not show up on the government's books, but operating costs (even if they make money do) do. Governments move to privatize items takes infrastructure costs and operating costs off their books, but cost to taxpayers and consumer end up being higher.

The US healthcare is an example. People don't want to pay more taxes, but if an HMO raises its price by 20%, how it that any different in cost to the consumer than if government had paid it and raised taxes.

Its really a matter of being transparent on these issues.

Are there areas that private sector succeeds at. Absolutely.

A construction company with trained staff and equipment may build something for cheaper than a government trying to start its own construction team for nothing. An insurance company that handles 3 continents may be better at underwriting costs in case of a disaster than a provincial one if anything serious ever went wrong.

The same with goods. Government should not really be in businesses that depend on marketing to survive.

Everyone needs power. Its generic. One type is not better than another. (not withstanding environmental costs in production.)