A prominent B.C. environmentalist struck a conciliatory tone with green energy critics in Whistler April 9, saying that blanket opposition to independent power producers (IPPs) is based in ideology, not pragmatism.
Tzeporah Berman, a co-founder of ForestEthics B.C. and now executive director of the PowerUp Canada citizens' initiative, led a discussion last Thursday put on by the Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue in which she outlined B.C.'s energy needs and addressed the "backlash" against the government's attempted solutions.
Whistler community members initially thought the discussion would turn into a heated debate about IPPs, but Whistler Forum president William Roberts tried to steer discussion towards green energy as a whole.
Proponents of IPPs feel they're essential to meeting B.C.'s energy needs. Opponents, meanwhile, feel there's a "gold rush" on for B.C. rivers, to develop run of river hydro projects on them, and that such projects amount to privatizing provincial streams.
Despite Roberts's call, Berman focused much of her discussion on the IPP debate, which has heated up as the May 12 provincial election approaches. She didn't mince words when addressing them.
"I think that the call for a moratorium on IPPs is shortsighted," she said. "We're in a recession and calling for a moratorium of the private sector, of renewable energy companies would send the signal to the business community that this is not a place for them to invest in."
In the midst of her talk that preceded a discussion with various community members, Berman had a Powerpoint presentation in which she articulated B.C.'s energy needs leading up to 2030.
She explained that B.C. is currently getting approximately 165,000 GWh of electricity from fossil fuels.
She added that even if B.C. tried to get off fossil fuels by developing run of river projects, including those at Bute Inlet and the Toba River, as well as all the wind power and solar power it could muster by 2030, the province would still come 155,000 GWh short of its projected energy needs.
"Even if we doubled, tripled, quadrupled our conservation and efficiency plans that we have today, we couldn't meet that gap," she said.
"We have this notion that we're going to find a silver bullet, that there's going to be a way to get off fossil fuels and get out of the climate crisis by picking something that's not going to have an impact and the fact is, any energy generation is going to have an impact.
"Even if you have the best run of river energy project out there, you're still going to have transmission lines. Everything is going to have an impact."