EcoNews
Newsletter #216 - September 2011
Promoting the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island
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Contact EcoNews

Guy Dauncey, Editor
13561 Barney Road, Ladysmith, BC
CANADA V9G 1E9
Tel (250) 924-1445
www.earthfuture.com

Executive director
The Solutions Project

Editorial

WHERE IS OUR SOLAR FUTURE?

The light that is entering your eyes right now has come from that vast nuclear fusion reactor we call the Sun, 149 million kilometres away. Just eight minutes and 18 seconds ago, it left the Sun. So did the heat, travelling across space as radiation. Ponder this the next time you are lying in the sun, doing nothing.

Along the way, we renamed it solar energy, and during the last nano-blink of geological time we learnt how to harvest it, putting solar panels on our roofs to generate electricity, heat and hot water.

If you cover a 1000 square foot south-facing roof with 10 kW of solar panels, you will generate around 10,000 kWh of electricity a year, which is enough for the average BC home. If our homes and appliances were twice as efficient, we’d only need 5 kW.

“So why isn’t it happening?” you may ask. Well, it is happening – but it is slow to get started in BC. By the end of 2008, 12,000 MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) had been installed around the world, and the industry was growing by a phenomenal 40% a year, primarily in Germany, Japan and California.

Solar hot water is also expanding at a rip-roaring rate, with over 40 million rooftop systems installed in China, for 70% of the world’s total.

Julia Roberts' SHW systemThe same solar hot water technology that the Chinese use, using a tank on the roof, has been installed by Globe Solar, on Julia Roberts’ house in Nelson, who benefited from up to $3,225 in incentives and tax rebates from SolarBC. (See photo. That’s “our” Julia Roberts, not she of Hollywood fame).

Solar BC was set up by the BC Sustainable Energy Association, with funding from the provincial and federal governments, and if you go to www.solarbc.ca or call 1-866-650-6527 you can learn about the choice of solar thermal systems available, and apply for an incentive yourself.

In Europe, the solar thermal industry has set a goal to be producing 50% of the heat needs for all buildings from solar thermal by 2030, using storage systems that capture summer heat for winter use.

And then there’s the deserts, which receive 4,000 times more energy a year than the world uses. How’s that for a surplus, when you want to close down all the coal and gas-fired power plants?

Concentrating solar thermal plants use mirrors to focus the Sun’s 8-minuteold heat to produce steam. There’s a 354 MW plant operating in California’s Mohave Desert, and a new 20 MW solar tower in Spain that powers 10,000 homes – and Europe is planning big.

Theoretically, 0.8% of Algeria’s desert could produce enough electricity for all of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. (See www.trec-uk.org.uk). Since the heat can be stored in water or molten salt, it can produce useful power 13-16 hours a day, meeting 90% of the grid’s daytime load.

In the USA, a 15,000 square mile area of desert, using this technology, could provide 90% of America’s power needs from 0.4% of the US land.

So now let’s get back to solar PV. By 2007, Germany, with the same or less sunshine than British Columbia, had installed 3,862 MW, for 52% of the world’s solar PV. Canada had 20 MW.

Solar PV is expensive, but the price is falling, driven by mass production. In 1990, it cost 60 cents US per kWh. By 2000, it had fallen to 30 cents, and by 2015 it may fall to 15 cents. Here in BC, we pay only 7 cents/kWh CAN, which is a big disadvantage. In Germany they pay 22 cents/kWh – and their industry has not crumbled. Instead, they have become far more efficient.

As well as their high price of power, Germany’s secret is a policy called the feed-in tariff, just adopted by Ontario, which provides a 20-year contract to anyone wanting to produce renewable energy for the grid, with a fixed price of up to 80 cents a kWh for a small roofmounted solar PV system up to 10 kW. At that price, you can line up investors in days. The money comes from a small $3 rider on the monthly electricity bill.

So now we come to the challenge. Would people in BC be willing to pay $3 a month to support the development of a made-in-BC solar industry, and generate additional green energy?

Unlike Germany and most other places, BC already produces 90% of its electricity in a relatively green manner, and with new green energy coming on stream, we will soon be 100% selfsufficient, even in low-water years. That means we would be paying the monthly $3 to export a surplus of green energy to Alberta and the US, where it could help close down the coal-fired power plants.

From the climate emergency and the build-a-solar-industry perspective, it makes sense. But will people accept that? This is the question we need to address as we seek to build our solar future.

Solar is coming – there’s no mistaking that. We already have a good foundation in BC with companies like Carmanah, Day4Energy, Xantrex, Energy Alternatives and Swiss Solar Tech, but if we sit back and do nothing, when the price is finally low enough we will end up importing it all from the Chinas of the world. And that would be a huge missed opportunity.

- Guy Dauncey
The Eco-Personals

$1.00 a word. Max 5 lines; non-profits, low-income free. 1" box ad $50


Wanted: a volunteer to update and print the EcoNews address labels eachmonth. Printer provided. Guy 881-1304


Charming guest room, $30/night. Cook St Village, ocean. 250-361-3102


Short term rental, prime Fairfield location $30/night. 250-382-3810


5th Annual Organic Islands Festival & Sustainability Expo, Victoria. 150 Exhibitors. Solar Powered. Near Zero Waste. Live green, do good, we’ll show you how. www.organicislands.ca or 250-658-8148. Volunteers Needed.


Ten community leaders can each receive $1,000 to complete SFU's Certificate Program for Community Economic Dev’t Professionals. www.sfu.ca/cscd/ced/announcements.htm


Eco-minded health prof, NS, no pets, seeks 1.5-2 BR suite or cottage. Clean, dry, above-ground, private, bright, wood floors, garden for edible landscaping. July 15 or Aug 1, Central Saanich. Tatha@uvic.ca 250-744-0141

Green Bites

SUMMER ECO-HAIKU CONTEST

Calling all poets, sunpoets and unpoets. Write an eco-haiku, and EcoNews will print the best five in the next issue.

Five words for summer,
Seven to help the wine go down.
Five to make sun words.

Deadline Sunday June 21st. Entries will be judged by apprentices at The Garden Path Organic Plant Nursery. Send your haiku with your name and address to guydauncey@earthfuture.com. PS “five words” should really be “five syllables” – but then it would not be five!

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VOTE WORLD GOVERNMENT

This is the year when everything is possible – and we are less than half way through. This is the year for positive hopes, ideas and initiatives, not dull cynicism and negativity. Jim Stark, author of the book Rescue Plan for Planet Earth, has tapped into this sense of powerful optimism by launching an initiative to achieve democratic world government by global referendum.

The argument for democratic world government is as strong as the argument for democracy. As long as we do not have democratic world government, we will continue to be controlled globally by the corporations, the World Bank, the IMF and the UN Security Council. The arguments against it are chiefly based in fear, and a dislike of government itself. Wherever we fail to govern ourselves democratically, however, pirates and scoundrels quickly take over, even while disguising themselves as bankers and businessmen.

Jim (who hails from Shawville, Quebec) estimates that we’ll need two billion YES votes to prevail. This will be sufficient, he hopes, to achieve a United Nations resolution calling on all parliaments and assemblies to conduct a formal national referendum in tandem with national elections as part of a global vote.

He has started with a global Internet vote, and an appeal by 52 authors, including George Monbiot, Dr. Mary- Wynn Ashford, and Benjamin Barber. The details of how a democratically elected global assembly would work can be worked out later, when there is buy-in from national leaders. He thinks we’ll need ten years to achieve two billion YES votes, but maybe we can speed that up, and do it in two years? You can add your vote at www.voteworldgovernment.org. Right now, he has 10,584 votes, 92% voting YES. Can we, the community of EcoNews readers, push this over 11,000 votes? Please vote now. One – two – three – PUSH!

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OPEN PASSAGE

Northwest PassageAh, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea;
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.

–Stan Rogers

On Saturday June 6th, at 1330 hours, Cameron Dueck will depart from Victoria’s Inner Harbour with his three crewmates on Silent Sound, a 40-foot cutter rig sailing boat designed by Fred Amor of Gabriola Island. Their destination – the famed and hazardous Northwest Passage through the ice. Their purpose – to tell the story of how the rapidly melting Arctic is impacting the hunters, leaders and young Inuit people, and to bring their story to a global audience, using their partnership with Discovery Earth Live and the World Wildlife Fund.

The ice which once locked the Arctic lands from shore to shore is melting at a pace which is causing shock among scientists, some of whom fear the Arctic could be completely free of summer ice as early as 2013. As goes the Arctic, so goes Greenland – where there enough ice to raise global sea levels by 7 metres.

The team expects to complete the journey of 7,000 nautical miles in Halifax in September. To follow their journey see www.openpassageexpedition.com.

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SALT SPRING ECOREALITY

Salt Spring EcoRealityAll over Canada, there are people who know in their hearts that they want to live in a different way – and for many, the dream is to live in community on the land in a sustainable manner, where they can be the change they want to see. Land prices are high, which makes the dream really difficult to achieve, but a group is pulling it off on Salt Spring.

The EcoReality Coop has bought 37 acres of irrigated land in the Fulford Valley, which they are gradually moving from hay to organic food production. Eleven members in three families share the existing living space, and there are plans for natural buildings for many more residents, using an affordable equity model in compliance with the official community plan, and with broad support from the wider Salt Spring community. The land backs onto hundreds of acres of wild public parkland, and is next to a 63-acre community farmland site.

If you want to get involved, they have a potluck dinner every Saturday night followed by a movie or presentation, and a community work party on the last Friday and Saturday of every month. To get involved, call 250-653-2024, and check their website at www.ecoreality.org.

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COPENHAGEN, DECEMBER 2009

Among those who are close to the climate science, the depth of the trouble we are in is enough to make you want to shit your pants. The general public has no idea how severe the looming emergency is, and – judging by the BC election – nor do most politicians. If anything, the debate over carbon tax versus cap and trade made people believe that all would be fine, because whichever policy prevailed would solve the problem. Far from it. Far, far, far.

The debate culminates this December in Copenhagen, Denmark, where nations will strive to finalize a new agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which has shown how difficult it is to quit a century of fossil fuel dependency.

These big conferences are known as COP (which stands for Conference of the Parties) and they happen every year, attended by around 15,000 people. I went to the COP-11 conference in Montreal in 2005, and discovered how incredibly dry the details can be, while covering a wealth of critical politics.

For the first time, the negotiating text for Copenhagen has been released ahead of time, which allows us to see the clauses that nations will be debating. The good news is that the draft includes – as an option - the level of change that is needed, which is a reduction in our emissions by at least 45% (below 1990) by 2020, and more than 95% by 2050. For Canada, which is 30% above where we need to be to meet our Kyoto goal, this would mean a period of very exciting and rapid change. (See www.blog.earthfuture.com).

Another key issue is the need to reduce the atmospheric CO2 from the present 387 ppm down to 350 ppm or lower. Before the industrial age, when we started releasing ancient carbon into the atmosphere, Earth’s CO2 was 280 ppm. Today, it is rising by a steady 2 ppm a year, and heading towards 450, which most climate experts agree is far too dangerous. To make 350 an agreed global is hugely important. NASA's James Hansen and a team of other scientists published a series of papers recently showing that we need to cut the CO2 to 350 or less if we wish to "maintain a planet similar to that on which civilization developed."

On Saturday October 24th, there is to be a global day of action to persuade negotiators at Copenhagen to adopt 350 as a formal target. Could your family, school or business create an action of some kind? See www.350.org for ideas.

350 Protestors in Hawaii

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THE GREEN ENERGY DEBATE

During the last six months, a furious debate has been happening in BC about privately operated run-of-river power projects. Sometimes characterized by well-informed concern, and sometimes not, the debate has opened up an issue that will be with us for a long time.

One of the missing ingredients has been an apparent absence of land-use planning that would assure people that environmental concerns are being addressed alongside plans to develop renewable energy. Two important processes are underway that should address this issue to some extent.

The first is the Western Renewable Energy Zones, in which BC and Alberta are participating with 11 US states and part of Mexico “to identify those areas in the West with vast renewable resources to expedite the development and delivery of renewable energy to where it is needed”, including the listing of exclusion and “initial avoidance” areas. For BC, this includes parks, conservancies, protected areas, ecological reserves, future biodiversity areas, marine wildlife areas, and migratory bird sanctuaries. See www.westgov.org/wga/initiatives/wrez

The second is the BC Utilities Commission’s Long Term Electricity Transmission Inquiry, which is just getting underway, and will take about a year. This covers BC’s transmission needs for the next 30 years, and explicitly requires the Commission to look into electricity exports.

These are important proceedings, since they are likely to have big impacts on government energy policy, including exports and environmental protection. In the name of achieving greater public understanding, on Tuesday June 23rd, at 12 noon, the BC Sustainable Energy Association is providing a free 1-hour webinar on The Future of Transmission for Renewable Energy in BC, which you can join from your computer. To register go to www.bcsea.org/teleworkshops.

Action of the Month

HELP SAVE THE WILD SALMON

Alexandra Morton has just returned from Norway, because 92% of BC’s fish farming is Norwegian owned. She assumed that they had it handled, but she writes that, “My eyes have really been opened.” She leant that they have major concerns with Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) virus, and antibioticresistant sea-lice populations to which the only solution is the use of increasingly toxic chemicals. In spite of this, they are seeing an increase in sealice on both farmed and wild salmon.

Action: Sign the letter asking the federal Minister of Fisheries and Premier Gordon Campbell to apply the Fisheries Act to protect our salmon from industrial salmon feedlots. 14,000 people have signed so far, but with no response. You can sign the petition at www.adopt-a-fry.org.

Submissions to EcoNews

To buy ad space in the next EcoNews, or to submit your event to next month's Green Diary, please contact:

Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
guydauncey@earthfuture.com

Deadline for April issue March 24th

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