Within a story titled "Water War" published last month in Pique Newsmagazine, and in subsequent letters to the editor, Nigel Protter was challenged and criticized by some. Mr. Protter asked for an opportunity to present his background and qualifications, which appear below.
They say any PR is good PR, so I hope to find some advantage from the flings and challenges hurled my way as a result of Jesse Ferreras's otherwise fair and balanced article on IPPs (Pique Feb. 19 http://www.piquenewsmagazine.com/pique/index.php?cat=C_Features&content=Feature+1608). It seems that I am being called to state my green power credentials, sources, and credo, so for the record I'll lay it all out in hopes that people will understand that I have an informed opinion in all of this, and that one day more of us will be able to have a non-hysterical conversation about why so many smart, educated, honest, and passionate people around the world are absolutely sure that we can't build enough certified green power plants soon enough, and why most green power plants will inevitably and quite correctly be built and operated with private investment by private companies under public oversight to serve the public interest.
Moving to Whistler in 1978 I built a cabin in the woods off the West Side Road, living off-grid for almost eight years making our own power. Through the early '80s I built houses, logged, tree planted, did glaciological field work up and down the Coast Range, made mountain films and historical documentaries, paddled to Alaska, ski toured, ski patrolled, and eventually got a degree focussed on advanced communication technologies from SFU. In 1984 I wrote a major piece of software in my cabin by kerosene light on a computer I had converted to run off twelve volts DC. I started the first business in Whistler Village, the Espresso Express cappuccino bus, running from 1978 to 1981. In one of several alternative energy adventures, I spent the summer of '85 working with my dad assembling a collection of spent oil wells down in Kentucky and Indiana to get more oil out by injecting a soap solution under pressure down one hole and recovering good oil out another.
I moved to Toronto in 1987 to found Protomedia, one of the first interactive media companies in Canada, integrating design, video, animation, analogue and digital communication, and custom programming with advanced computer software and hardware, much like the Web, but five years before the Web was invented. My company was bought out and I settled in Pemberton in 1991 with my new wife and whitewater kayaking buddy, Karen Love, to raise a family. Here we made and exported Bark Markers crayon sticks all around the world for several years employing dozens of local people including First Nations, dabbled at farming, founded the Pemberton Valley Farmer's market in 1993, built the "General Country" store in 1994 (what is now the Pony Espresso building) and kayaked and ski toured whenever we had the time.
In 1992 I joined a community advisory committee when it was announced that a company was seeking to develop a major Geothermal power plant at Meager Creek. That project eventually died but not long after the Soo River hydro project broke ground and I followed its development closely. By the late 1990s, I realized the green power revolution was verging upon us in B.C. but there didn't exist a single person with a local's perspective that actually had a voice within the industry. I decided to become one, and with my wife's support we rented our Pemberton house, moved the family into the converted barn and I went back to SFU for an MBA in Management of Technology and Innovation, winning two major scholarships while living in my camper in SFU's parking lot for two years, learning everything I could about large scale renewable electricity systems and policies.
I wrote a detailed academically refereed analysis (download here: http://files.me.com/cloudbase9/lqxtlu) of the B.C. Electricity Industry and how re-regulation, new technologies, and sustainability drivers were rapidly transforming the electricity industry in B.C. and around the world. In it I describe the nature of electricity and how our electricity system works, how electricity policy has evolved in the face of sustainable development goals, how monopoly utilities and IPPs tend to behave under various forms of regulation, and I made several recommendations on best practices for the B.C. green power industry. The paper is heavily referenced and contains a large glossary. The analysis was last updated in 2003 and some things have changed, but on the whole it remains extremely relevant to B.C.'s current energy debate and more or less serves as my professional manifesto.
I applied for and was accepted to join the IPPBC http://www.ippbc.com as a non-corporate (independent) volunteer director, serving from 2001 to 2003 as its first "Green Power Champion", working to advance green power policy and process. My fellow directors will recall how often I was at odds with the thermal power guys over the slow adoption and low priority of Green Power in B.C. and Canada. In 2002 I pushed the province and energy sector very hard to be nominated as energy sector rep on the Sea to Sky LRMP, since otherwise no local perspective would be represented.
In 2003 I put together the public/private funded B.C. Wind Interconnection System Expansion study (BC WISE) to help accelerate the adoption of large-scale wind farms in B.C. by bringing senior wind interconnection experts from Denmark's Elsam wind-hydro utility to BC Hydro/BCTC, and sitting them down together. From 2004-2007 I served as a founding director of the Ocean Renewable Energy Group http://www.oreg.ca. I've been retained for over five years by UNESCO award-winning http://www.hydropower.org/blue_planet_prize/information.html Regional Power Inc. http://www.regionalpower.com to help them understand and respond to local issues and impacts around putting a green run of river hydro plant on the Ryan River, and to help them design and develop what I am certain is going to be the world's best example yet of sustainable hydropower. In 2008 I worked with the Village of Pemberton as a consultant pro bono to help mayor and council understand hydro technology, impacts, and green power policy, to commission a preliminary project design and feasibility study for a run of river project on Pemberton Creek, and to guide the Village's application for a water license.
I founded SyncWave Energy Inc. in 2004, http://www.syncewavesystems.com. With scientists from U Vic I co-invented and hold international patents on the SyncWave Power Resonator wave energy conversion technologies, was a 2008 winner of a $2.7 million Federal cleantech demonstration project grant, a 2007 winner of the MITACS Accelerate B.C. Clean Technology award, and was a two time Telus New Ventures B.C. clean technology winner including the 2005 BC Hydro Sustainability Prize. SyncWave hopes to demonstrate its wave energy device off Vancouver Island within the next two years. I am a frequent speaker at green power and cleantech conferences across North America, and have served on cleantech and green power policy advisory panels for several NGOs and policy advisory committees including Pollution Probe, Summerhill Group, the Paul Martin Government's Environmental Technology Roundtable, the Canadian Institute, and the B.C. PowerTech Alliance. I have no vested (ownership) interest in any commercial power projects, and I hold no water license applications directly or indirectly. I could not even remotely be considered a spokesperson for the B.C. IPP industry, though I am in many ways aligned with it in advancing green power policies that would improve its sustainability performance. I am a B.C. Government insider only in as far as I have to regularly deal with many levels of government and elected officials as a critical part of what I do. I do not believe in conspiracy theories.
What I would love to see from this point forward, besides more green power sooner, is a much more constructive, non-partisan, civil, and informed debate (dialogue?) around energy, the economy, and the environment, which are so inextricably entwined. Energy is perhaps the most complex, all-encompassing industry on earth, rife with and encumbered by ethical dilemmas, technology trajectories, environmental and social impacts, moral hazards, economic realities, policy swings, and an egregiously uninformed, wildly paranoid, and brutally cynical political milieu.
Even if you do green energy full time like I do, mapping the intersection of its myriad industry forces is an almost impossible or perhaps circular task, and anyone can confuse the issues to suit their particular agenda, by accident or on purpose. In the end, assuming you believe like I do that climate change and energy security are the most critical issues we face today (both being inextricably linked to the economy), we'll either get it right by immediately accelerating the pace of green power development or we are going to face the largest and perhaps bloodiest human crises ever seen before the end of this century.
Some Quick Facts: The only bulk sources of commercially ready "primary renewable" certifiable green power available to humankind today are run-of-river hydro, wind power, solar thermal power, and rare hot geothermal opportunities. Solar PV and biomass are both questionable technologies at this time, and neither is remotely competitive. Wind and solar thermal typically demonstrate about one-half the average capacity factor of run-of-river hydro, which means of all the intermittent green power sources out there, run of river hydro is by far the best. Dam-backed hydro may be better than fossil fuels, and perhaps so is nuclear, but they are definitely not among the less than 2% of global electricity that is certifiably green. There is no bulk commercial clean coal, hydrogen economy, carbon sequestration, fusion, algae or cellulosic biomass, tidal or wave energy at this time, and no-one can say when or if there ever will be. Our collective failure to effectively reduce energy consumption over 30 years of talking about it is clearly due to our fallible human nature, talking Suzuki but acting Rumsfeld. Demand reduction is a critical part of our energy future but it alone can never meet new demand let alone displace fossil fuels, and it will never occur on a meaningful scale without all of: significantly higher energy costs, fully costed environmental externalities (e.g. pricing carbon emissions), major technical and supply chain advancements, huge publicly funded infrastructure investments, and strictly enforced electric load scheduling and demand response.