B.C. government carbon neutral for five years

Clean Capital

Originally published in Clean Capital.


B.C. government carbon neutral for five years

By Jenny Tan

January 28, 2016


British Columbia’s public sector has been carbon neutral for five years, according to a report released by the province.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment says the province achieved neutrality by measuring all of its public sector emissions and purchasing carbon offsets to balance them out. It has spent $53 million on emission offsets between 2010 and 2014. It also worked to reduce emissions wherever possible.

According to the report, titled Leading By Example, the B.C. public sector generated 46,000 fewer tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 compared to the baseline year of 2010, equivalent to taking 9,800 cars off the road.

B.C. claims it is the first provincial, state, or territorial government in North America to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

All data were submitted to a third-party auditor for verification.

Some of the reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions came from infrastructure and heating retrofits, according to the report. Success stories outlined include the Sechelt Hospital’s geothermal energy system, the Victoria Royal Jubilee Hospital’s waste heat recovery project, and Vancouver Community College’s infrastructure upgrades. Those upgrades led to a 22 per cent reduction in emissions at the college.

“What’s become clear over the past five years is that counting the cost of carbon pollution is good for both the environment and the bottom line,” wrote B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak in the report’s introduction. “Schools are redirecting funds they used to spend on energy directly to education… and hospitals have reinvested revenues in patient care.”

The picture is less rosy, however, for province-wide greenhouse gas emissions. A 2014 memo from the federal government showed that Environment Canada predicted B.C.’s emissions would actually increase by 11 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. The government had been hoping to reduce the province’s emissions by 33 per cent from 2007 levels by 2020.

Late last year, Minister Polak told the Times Colonist she had “no reason to doubt” that B.C. will miss its 2020 emissions targets. A report commissioned by Premier Christy Clark noted the province’s 2050 target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent below 2007 levels is still possible, but required “ambitious actions”. The recommendations in the report include increasing the carbon tax by $10 per tonne per year between 2018 and 2050. The report also recommended reducing the provincial sales tax by one per cent to support families and businesses.

According to the Pembina Institute, Canada-wide greenhouse gas emissions have been rising since 2009.


Photo Credit: Dru!

Benefits of state renewable energy standards outweigh costs, study finds

Clean Capital

Originally published in Clean Capital.

Benefits of state renewable energy standards outweigh costs, study finds

By Jenny Tan

January 14, 2016


A new U.S. Department of Energy report finds the benefits of renewable portfolio standards greatly exceed their costs.

Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) require a certain percentage of electricity to be produced from renewable sources. Twenty-nine American states plus the District of Columbia have instituted these standards.

The report finds an estimated $7.4 billion of benefits from RPS programs in 2013, mostly due to the health and environmental benefits of reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. An earlier study, also produced by the Department of Energy, estimates the compliance costs of RPS programs at just $1 billion.

The two studies use different methodologies and can’t be directly compared, Department of Energy analyst and report co-author Ryan Wiser told Greentech Media. However, he added, “the new report does help provide an important counterweight to arguments that state RPS targets are driving up electricity costs to unacceptable levels.”

In 2014, Ohio froze its benchmarks on electricity production from renewable sources for two years. Preventing cost increases was cited by supporters as a reason for the freeze.

The $7.4 billion in benefits from RPS targets does not include the reduction in water withdrawals, estimated at 830 billion gallons in 2013. Drought-prone California will likely see the largest savings in water withdrawals, the report states, as switching to renewable energy sources reduces the net demand for water.

Also not included are other impacts of RPS programs, such as reducing consumer electricity bills by up to $1.2 billion and natural gas bills by up to $3.7 billion. The report also estimates that RPS targets have supported up to 200,000 jobs in renewable energy.

Some Canadian provinces are implementing their own financial incentives for renewable energy producers.

Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick have instituted province-wide RPS programs.

In 2006, Ontario launched a feed-in tariff program that guarantees fixed prices for renewable energy producers, allowing them to compete with conventional energy producers. “The big surprise with the standard offer was just how successful it was,” World Wildlife Fund Canada analyst Keith Stewart told the New York times. Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have since launched their own feed-in tariff programs.

However, Ontario’s feed-in tariff program has been scaled back since its inception, and Nova Scotia’s program was cancelled in August 2015. The provincial government cited concerns about the program’s impact on power rates.

Photo Credit: Duke Energy