Islands could be first area to efficiently use green power

  • Feb. 29, 2008 2:00 p.m.

The communities here on the islands could be the first in the province to meet their electricity needs by efficient use coupled with renewable, alternative methods of generation. That’s one finding in the Haida Gwaii Community Energy Plan, just made public, which also says there is a need and a desire here to explore alternatives to the current system, which sees most of our power generated by dirty, environmentally-unfriendly and aging diesel generators.The plan addresses both the supply and use of electricity, and identifies ways to conserve it and use it efficiently, recommends options for supplying it, and has been in the works since 2006 when the Council of the Haida Nation and the Province through BC Hydro agreed to do it. A working group of islanders and others was formed, public meetings held, with the plan emerging after just over a year of work. The recommendations mainly deal with efficiency, having islanders use electricity more efficiently, and generating it more efficiently. It also addresses the environmental issue, agreeing to a process to define and implement an environmental standard for generation here on the islands. The plan also recommends figuring out how to make the current diesel and hydro generation systems more efficient, as well as facilitating hydro users to be more efficient, through encouraging new homes to be more energy efficient and helping ensure all homes meet higher efficiency standards. The plan recommends studying linking the north and south power grids (now separated south of Port Clements by 20 km) and that the quality of electricity also be studied.The plan notes that changing electricity users’ behaviour will be important, but that “achieving these behavioural changes requires educating the community about conservation.” It notes that there’s lots of room for improvement, and that a 10-15-percent improvement is possible. It also mentioned that the Village of Queen Charlotte had recently reduced electricity consumption by 48-percent in a power saving challenge.On producing electricity, the study looks at and assesses all possibilities from solar and fuel cells (not feasible) to small hydro (feasible, thanks to numerous small streams), wind (multiple potential sites) and biomass (feasible, but uncertain). Islanders told those conducting the study that reducing the dependence on diesel-electricity-now accounting for all the electricity generated in the north end and some in the south¬-was a priority, and local renewable sources such as small hydro, wind and biomass were identified as having significant potential as replacements. The plan hoped to identify feasible options for power generation and electricity distribution that meet residents’ needs and reflect their values and goals, to involve the community in the planning process and to inform BC Hydro’s future plans for generating electricity here. It’s full of interesting facts and figures, saying for example, that there are no industrial electricity consumers on the islands, just commercial and residential users, and that the average house uses 14,500 kWh per year if it is not heated electrically, and 26,600 kWh if it is. The biggest electricity users on a per-square-foot basis? Restaurants and food stores. It notes that islanders are paying far less than the cost of producing the electricity we use. Residential customers are paying just over 6-cents per kWh, while it costs BC Hydro 26-cents to produce it. The plan’s authors say the ball is now in BC Hydro’s court, but that the Council of the Haida Nation should take the lead in managing the process on the islands. Hydro’s next step could be developing a program to help islanders use power more efficiently and build capacity in the community by making maximum use of on-island resources and potential partnerships. It concludes by saying “the next steps will be defined in negotitiations between (the CHN and the Province).”

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