British Columbia’s ‘Solar Potential’ Beats Germany or Japan

by Roy L Hales.

Renewable Energy in British Columbia. Rooftop of an almost zero net energy home in Kamloops, BC, courtesy Riverside Energy.
Renewable Energy in British Columbia. Rooftop of an almost zero net energy home in Kamloops, BC. Image courtesy of: Riverside Energy.

Originally published on The Ecoreport.

According to a provincial government study called the Potential for Solar Power in British Columbia: 2007 to 2025, BC’s climate is much more amenable to solar than either Germany’s or Japan’s. The average production of a PV solar array in Kamloops, for example, is 1160 kWh/kW of PV installed. Even Vancouver (1009) has much more solar potential than Tokyo (885) or Berlin (only 848). Ben Giudici, of Kamloops-based Riverside Energy Systems, provided a copy of the study.

“I believe a modestly equipped sustainable home, utilizing solar to produce 50% or more of its own operating electricity, can be built with little or no increase to the building budget if the owner and builder base key construction details on reduction of energy consumption, and are willing to trade off some aesthetics for renewable energy equipment,” said Giudici.

“Construction practices and results in our building industry suggest BC residents are more inclined to equip their homes with granite counter tops, hot tubs, swimming pools, cobblestone driveways and/or other features devoid of monetary payback, than with grid-connected solar arrays which do offer a return on investment,” he added.

Riverside was founded in 1995 and will have completed more than 20 grid-connected solar PV installations by the end of this year. It also provides off-grid solar, wind and micro-hydro systems.

Renewable energy. House in Kamloops, BC that produced 75% of energy needed during the year it was monitored. Photo courtesy Riverside Energy.
Renewable energy. House in Kamloops, BC that produced 75% of the energy it required during the year it was monitored. Photo courtesy of: Riverside Energy.

In 2010, Riverside designed and installed the solar PV system for what was meant to be a zero-net-energy home. Though PV produced almost exactly as expected, the building’s other operating systems consumed more than estimated and solar hot water production fell short of projections.

“During the year CMHC monitored the home, it self-produced about 75% of the energy it consumed,” Guidici said. “That is about 25% short of the net zero target.”

The design of a net-zero home begins with an ultra-insulated and very airtight building envelope. Every construction detail revolves around the goal of reducing energy consumption. After everything else — every electrical, heating, and cooling need — is reduced as much as possible, “then and only then are renewables such as solar PV, solar thermal, etc added.”

“The design and building process is arduous, requiring builders and homeowners to be very committed to the process and the desired net-zero outcome,” he said. “Zero net energy homes, like many other high performance systems, are dependent on their owners to reach full potential. (e.g.. a Ferrari will safely reach much higher speeds with a professional driver at the wheel than if I were driving) Thankfully, sustainable building practices do not need to be ‘net-zero or nothing’ in order to have significant impact.”

Jim and Cathy Brown agree. They are retired teachers who purchased a 5.8 kW system from Riverside in 2012. This provides more than 100% of their energy needs during the summer months, but not nearly enough from November through February. Cathy estimated it supplies 1/3 of their power needs then. They intend to purchase another 5.8 kW array and try to get that up to 2/3.

Renewable energy. Cathy Brown clearing snow off their solar panels in Kamloops, BC. Photo courtesy Riverside Solar.
Renewable energy. Cathy Brown clearing snow off their solar panel installation in Kamloops, BC. Photo courtesy of: Riverside Solar.

“You wouldn’t get anything near this rate of return if you left your money sitting in a bank account,” Cathy said. “And it makes you feel good to know you are doing something to help the environment.”

Guidici emphasized the fact it is all about choice. If a new homeowner decided to live with a a $30,000 kitchen instead of a $45,000 kitchen, and chose an asphalt driveway instead of cobblestone, “… renewable energy systems would soon be paid for.”

“If all else fails, construction and operating costs can be reduced by making the home a little smaller. This is a paradigm shift which may not come naturally for many of us, but fading perceptions of ‘forever cheap’ electricity in BC seem to be moving more people in this direction.”

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This article, British Columbia’s Climate Better For Solar Power Than Germany’s Or Japan’s, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable energy. Roy L HalesRoy L Hales is the editor of the ECOreport (www.theechoreport.com), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He is a research junkie who has written hundreds of articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project: ‘Approved’

Joint Review Panel recommends approving the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, Dec 19, 2013

CALGARY ― The Joint Review Panel (the Panel) for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project today recommended that the federal government approve the project, subject to 209 required conditions.

Based on a scientific and precautionary approach to this complex review, the Panel found that the project, if built and operated in compliance with the conditions set out in its report, would be in the public interest.

The Panel also recommended that the Governor in Council determine that the construction and routine operation of the project would cause no significant adverse environmental effects, with the exception of cumulative effects for certain populations of woodland caribou and grizzly bear.

In these two cases, the Panel found that cumulative effects as a result of this project and other projects, activities or actions are likely to be at the low end of the range of possible significance. The Panel recommended that these effects be found to be justified in the circumstances.

Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project
Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project

The Panel concluded that the environmental burdens associated with project construction and routine operation can generally be effectively mitigated and that continued monitoring, scientific research and adaptive management could further reduce adverse effects.

The Panel stated that “the environmental, societal and economic burdens of a large oil spill, while unlikely and not permanent, would be significant.” The Panel found that Northern Gateway had taken steps to minimize the likelihood of a large spill through its precautionary design approach and its commitments to use innovative and redundant safety systems.  The Panel also found that, after mitigation, the likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects resulting from project malfunctions or accidents is very low.

The Panel found that “opening Pacific Basin markets is important to the Canadian economy and society.”  The Panel also found that “the project would bring significant local, regional, and national economic and social benefits.”

After weighing all of the oral and written evidence, the Panel found that Canada and Canadians would be better off with the Enbridge Northern Gateway project than without it.

The Panel’s conditions, which would be enforced by the National Energy Board, include requirements for Enbridge Northern Gateway to:

  • Develop a Marine Mammal Protection Plan;
  • Implement the TERMPOL Review Committee Recommendations;
  • Prepare a Caribou Habitat Restoration Plan;
  • Develop a Training and Education Monitoring Plan;
  • Prepare an Enhanced Marine Spill Trajectory and Fate Modelling;
  • Develop a Research Program on the Behaviour and Cleanup of Heavy Oils;
  • Conduct Pre-operations Emergency Response Exercises and Develop an Emergency Preparedness and Response Exercise and Training Program.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is a proposal to build and operate two pipelines and a marine terminal. The pipelines would run 1,178 kilometres from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia, where the marine terminal would be built.

One 914 mm (36 inch) outside diameter line would carry an average of 83,400 cubic metres (525,000 barrels) per day of oil west to Kitimat. The other line, a 508 mm (20 inch) outside diameter pipeline, would carry an average of 30,700 cubic metres (193,000 barrels) of condensate per day east to Bruderheim. Condensate can be used to thin bitumen for pipeline transport. The Kitimat Marine Terminal would have two tanker berths, three condensate tanks and 16 oil storage tanks. Costs for the project are estimated at $7.9 billion.

The Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is an independent body, mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board. The Panel assessed the environmental effects of the proposed project and reviewed the application under both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and the National Energy Board Act.

The report, this news release, a backgrounder on the hearing process and a list of frequently asked questions can be found on the Panel’s website at: www.gatewaypanel.review.gc.ca

California Cap and Trade scores big marketplace wins

by Silvio Marcacci.

Painted California flag
Painted California flag image via Shutterstock.

California’s cap and trade market will expand in 2014 after a successful first year of operations that quelled fears of a European Union-style carbon allowance glut while powering a clean energy economic boom.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced a minimum of 81 million 2014 allowances and 37 million 2017 allowances will be auctioned during 2014, and the minimum reserve price for allowances will be set at $11.34.

2014’s available allowances and minimum reserve price are both increases over this year, when 57 million available 2013 allowances sold at a minimum reserve price of $10.71. But beyond increasing the number and cost of permits, several other developments suggest California’s carbon market will have an even more successful second year of operation.

Carbon Market Success In 2013 Leads Into 2014

Before looking ahead to 2014, it’s worth recapping exactly how the state’s carbon market performed in 2013. CARB held the system’s fourth quarterly 2013 auction last month, selling over 16 million 2013 allowances at $11.48 and over 9 million 2016 allowances at $11.10.

Three positive angles stick out from these auction results. First, all available 2013 allowances sold during the auction while nearly two bids were received for every one available allowance, meaning strong demand exists among bidders. While the November auction’s allowance price was the lowest of the four auctions held this year, it was still significantly higher than the minimum reserve.

Second, all future allowances sold out for the second auction in a row, at the highest clearing price yet for future vintage allowances. With demand and prices rising, California’s carbon market also shows strong future interest from bidders and stabilizes the system moving forward.

Third, the carbon allowance auctions continued to plow revenue into the state’s clean energy economy. $1.4 billion in total auction revenue has been raised, with more than $530 million dedicated to cutting emissions or funding renewables, including $130 million for clean energy projects in low-income communities.

Market Developments Allay Instability Fears

Just like with any start-up, California’s cap and trade system experienced a few growing pains in 2013, but two new developments should allay fears of market instability.

To start, California’s Superior Court ruled the system is within its legal authority to use auctions as a mechanism to sell allowances into the market. The decision dismissed a lawsuit by polluters who argued all permits should be distributed for free. While the ruling may be challenged, it does set a reassuring precedent.

California Carbon Dashboard
California Carbon Dashboard image via CalCarbonDash.org.

In addition to legal authority, daily system interactions should become much clearer thanks to the California Carbon Dashboard, an online resource created to track carbon prices and system news. The website also aggregates CARB announcements, emissions levels by sector, and system interaction with other state policies to provide market participants the clearest possible picture.

Biggest Impact Could Come Outside California

But California cap and trade’s 2014 fortunes won’t only be made internally. The system’s biggest gains will most likely come through linkages to other global carbon markets, and could ultimately make it the center of the world’s second international cap and trade system.

On January 1, 2014, California will formally link its system with Quebec’s nascent cap and trade system. This move will establish North America’s first international carbon market and allow market participants to trade allowances and offset credits across both jurisdictions. By 2020, the linkage is expected to generate at least $2.5 billion for clean energy in Quebec.

California also recently signed a formal agreement to link its climate policies with British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington. Under the plan, California will maintain its cap and trade system while British Columbia keeps its carbon tax. Together, they’ll link where possible, and coordinate with carbon markets being considered in Oregon and Washington.

The state also now has a formal relationship with China to work together on cutting emissions by designing and implementing synchronized carbon trading systems. China is in the middle of launching seven regional carbon markets that once fully operational, will be the largest in the world.

California Cap And Trade: Key To Climate Victory?

As international carbon markets start to develop around the world, California’s success is becoming a model for emulation that could transform the state from the epicenter of America’s clean tech market to the centerpiece of the fight against climate change.

We’re fast approaching the world’s carbon budget, but considering carbon markets cut emissions 17 times cheaper than subsidies, California cap and trade may just hold the key to climate victory.

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This article, California Cap And Trade Expanding In 2014 After Successful 2013, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio MarcacciSilvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

North American West Coast Governments Sign Climate Change Pact

by Silvio Marcacci

Pacific Coast Collaborative logo via Pacific Coast Collaborative
Pacific Coast Collaborative

They say the West Coast is the best coast, and as of today, that’s definitely true in the fight against climate change.

The leaders of British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington just formally joined forces to reduce emissions and transition toward renewables by signing the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, committing to link and maintain their respective climate and renewable energy policies.

This news is significant on multiple fronts, but mainly for the sheer size of its jurisdiction: three US states and one Canadian province that collectively represent 53 million people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion – essentially the world’s 5th largest economy and now, the world’s largest green economy.

West Coast-Style Climate Change Action

Today’s agreement is part of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which includes the four governments plus Alaska, formed to provide a co-operative forum on policy challenges facing the North American West Coast like clean energy, transportation, economic growth, and emergency management.

The four jurisdictions will account for the costs of carbon pollution and when feasible, link their respective clean energy programs to create a stable policy outlook to encourage investment. The plan also commits to adopting and maintaining low-carbon fuel standards across all jurisdictions, and pledges to work toward additional linkages across other North American states and provinces.

“This Action Plan represents the best of what Pacific Coast governments are already doing and calls on each of us to do more together to create jobs by leading in the clean energy economy,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

California’s cap-and-trade system has sold out of all available current permits in each of its four allowance auctions and will link to Quebec’s carbon market on January 1, 2014. British Columbia has maintained a C$30/ton carbon tax for the past five years while working toward a 33% emissions reduction by 2020 goal.

Both governments will maintain their existing programs, and Oregon and Washington have now committed to explore similar policies. Those emissions reductions goals and mechanisms are yet to be determined, but Inslee has said he supports a cap-and-trade system in Washington while Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has called for a price on carbon.

Under the action plan, the jurisdictions agreed to harmonize their 2050 emissions reduction goals while developing shorter-term targets in the interim – certainly a requisite first step toward any kind of larger linkage, but still a long way off considering formal emissions reduction policies would likely require statewide ballot approval.

Toward Green Economies And Global Emissions Cuts

Regardless, today’s action shows the kind of political action that happens when climate policy turns into green jobs. “We are already seeing how our commitment to clean energy is changing the face and fortune of our state, accounting for $5 billion in economic activity and 58,000 jobs,” said Kitzhaber. “Transitioning to a clean economy creates jobs.”

And the West Coast’s climate action could soon have international repercussions. All four signatories said they would work with other national and sub-national governments to secure a global climate change agreement in 2015. With 60 carbon pricing systems either in operation or under development around the world, today’s action could be the biggest sign yet of a truly international carbon market.

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This article, North American West Coast Governments Sign Climate Change Pact, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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The Power Of Rubbish: It’s Quite Good

by Nicholas Brown – Special to JBS News

Almost every time you eat, you dispose of rubbish consisting of either peels, fruit cores, crusts, ends, seeds, shells, etc. When you mow your lawn, you produce grass clippings. Wouldn’t it be nice to put all that to some use?

Using anaerobic digestion, these materials can be decomposed to produce useful substances, including (but not limited) to biogas, which contains methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases. Methane is a renewable, highly energy dense (55.5 MJ/kg, or 15.4 kWh/kg), and relatively clean fuel which can power various types of heaters and electricity generators.

BC Bioenergy Network, which works with organizations keen to pilot and demonstrate new technologies, has proudly announced that Harvest Power has officially switched on a plant which generates this biogas using grass clippings and kitchen waste from Metro Vancouver. It is called The Energy Garden. It is located in Richmond, BC, and is now North America’s largest anaerobic digestion plant.

The Energy
Soil and mulch loading ramp at The Energy Garden. Image Credit: Harvest Power.

Annually, it can convert up to 40,000 tonnes of apple cores, pizza crusts, and grass clippings into useful products, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10,255 tonnes.

This plant generates enough electricity to power 900 homes per year, plus, it provides hundreds of thousands of tonnes of soil for farms and gardens. To put the cherry on top, it burns the methane that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere if the garbage went to landfills. Methane’s greenhouse effect is 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide!

Could a power plant be any more resourceful than that? Maybe, but this is hard to beat.

The Energy Garden was recently added to KMPG’s list of 100 leading global industrial projects.

About the Author

Nicholas Brown has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa.