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Posted: August 14, 2021

Clear guidance needed from Premier Horgan and Cabinet

Letter to the Editor

As we experience yet another record wildfire year and choke on hazardous levels of smoke, one might expect your government to be doing everything possible to tackle the climate crisis. However, BC Hydro’s draft 20-year power strategy falls woefully short of what is needed.

It is clear that BC Hydro一which is a Crown corporation一will not be a climate leader without clear guidance from you.

Their draft integrated resource plan (IRP) characterized as “a 20th-century plan for the 21st century” fails to equip us with the tools needed to address the climate crisis. The plan does not align with the BC government’s own legislated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets, nor with CleanBC.

BC Hydro, the largest producer of clean energy in B.C., could make or break our success in addressing the huge impacts of climate change that we are seeing this summer 一 agriculture in crisis, deadly heat, hazardous smoke, thousands evacuated, and millions spent fighting fires. And it’s just early August.

The draft IRP lays out two vastly different scenarios for the future of our province. BC Hydro’s choice, the “Base Resource Plan,” is not compatible with meeting provincial GHG targets. However, its contingency “Accelerated Scenario” would provide the energy needed for the province to kick its fossil fuel addiction and make good on its claims of climate leadership.

BC Hydro has failed to consider the increased electricity demand coming from the exponential growth in electric vehicles and the switch to electric heating. BC Hydro’s own survey indicates that two-thirds of British Columbians plan to buy an EV in the next several years.

The provincial government is encouraging homeowners to switch to electric heat pumps, which are more efficient than natural gas, and are in great demand as they also work as air conditioners and filter wildfire smoke. Climate models show unequivocally that summers will continue to get hotter and smokier. We need only look to this summer’s rush on air conditioners during the heatwave that killed over 550 people to predict an increased electrical demand.

The Accelerated Scenario would give us a fighting chance of meeting B.C.’s climate targets.  However, this plan still falls short in terms of climate resiliency. Local, renewable energy systems would mitigate the risk of wildfires cutting off power to an entire community, as when a fire that cut through a transmission line to West Kelowna threatened over 60,000 Hydro customers. This resiliency will become even more important as we increasingly rely on electricity for electric transportation and heating.

The coming two decades will not look like the last two. The climate crisis must be put at the forefront of all policy if we are to rise to the greatest challenge of our time. We ask you to require that BC Hydro’s revised plan assumes we meet our legislated targets, aligns with CleanBC goals, and considers climate resiliency for our communities.

For the Planet,

Sarah Katya Kirschmann, Laura Sacks and Sharon Cross,

BC Climate Alliance

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