Bruce Williams is CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
I’m recently back in Greater Victoria following a vacation to Europe and a visit with Amanda’s family. It’s been a few years since we were there, and I was impressed by the massive scale of clean energy projects as we flew over the continent. The wind turbine farms cover miles of pastoral landscapes that were once home to medieval waterwheels and grain mills. Some of these ancient power generating sites still exist as tourist attractions and reminders of the past. But today’s massive, ultramodern turbines are definitely symbols of our ongoing shift to a cleaner energy future.
In British Columbia, where almost all of our power in our province is generated by water, BC Hydro is part of our culture. Many BC small towns were built around hydroelectric stations. Their reservoirs have become recreational areas beloved by boaters and anglers. On Vancouver Island, BC Hydro has four hydroelectric systems with six generating systems built between 1911 and 1971. The facilities produce about 471 megawatts, or about four percent of the total energy produced by BC Hydro.
Of course, our world is not the same as it was leading up to the 1970s. The demand for electrical power to replace fossil fuels gets stronger every day. We see a good example of this in the rapid adoption of electric vehicles — almost 20 percent of passenger vehicles sold last year were electric. Part of the reason for their popularity can be linked to incentives offered by the federal government as well as Clean BC and the provincial government. The province had been offering a $350 rebate for EV chargers, but the program was so well received it has recently run out of funding. It makes you wonder how British Columbia plans to meet the growing pressure on our electrical grid.
To find out, and to learn more about the future of clean energy, The Chamber is hosting BC Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley at our June 28 Business Leaders Luncheon. These events are always high value, with great opportunities to share a table with like-minded business and community leaders. The conversations are illuminating and leave attendees inspired to get back to building their business and improving our community for everyone.
BC Hydro has been doing great at educating the public on energy conservation and methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Their ongoing work is fascinating as they take a leadership role in generating and delivering electricity in environmentally and socially responsible ways.
Hydropower produces energy that does not pollute the air and has negligible greenhouse gas emissions — as low or lower than wind power. Hydropower converts 90% of energy to electricity. That compares to about 60% for the most efficient fossil fuel power plants.
Canada has the potential to double the amount of hydropower it currently produces. Doing so will be necessary to make sure there is enough energy to supply the demand from the public and private sector.
Governments, public transit and commercial transportation are transitioning to electric vehicle fleets. Individuals and business owners are choosing electric options to cut back on emissions. And there is an insatiable thirst for energy to power the Internet, cryptocurrencies and the myriad devices we have all come to rely on.
The world is changing before our eyes — it’s always electrifying to see it change for the better.
The column originally appeared in the June edition of the Business Examiner.