Gordon Hamilton, Vancouver Sun, September 26, 2011
You could be forgiven for thinking it was an energy showdown. On the southeast corner of Georgia and Burrard, Canada’s coal industry was holding its annual conference Monday at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.
And on the northwest corner, at the Hyatt Regency, members of Clean Energy BC, the association that represents alternative energy, were holding their annual conference.
They were kitty-corner from each other but there was no antagonism between them, even though executives from Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, were at the Hotel Vancouver conference and Tzeporah Berman, head of Greenpeace International’s global climate and energy program was at the Hyatt.
Some companies, like engineering giant Hatch Ltd., had representation at both conferences. Hatch’s metallurgical arm can build a super-furnace that burns coal more cleanly, and its global water power arm has solutions for run-of-river, ocean and reservoir projects.
“It’s all energy. It all comes from one spot, the sun,” Hatch’s Richard Donnelly said in an interview at the Clean Energy BC conference.
Allen Wright, past president of the Coal Association of Canada, said coal is the world’s largest generator of electricity and metallurgical coal is a key ingredient in the manufacture of steel. He said alternative energy is part of the energy mix.
“I am a strong supporter of these other renewables if they are practical,” Wright said in an interview. “Take wind power, for instance. It takes 170 tonnes of coking coal to make the steel for one tower. So we are connected.”
Wright said coal is growing faster than any other energy sector; the Canadian industry’s output grew by 10 per cent in 2010 and it is continuing to grow in a bid to keep up with demand. The association meets in Vancouver every second year, he said, noting that the timing and location of its conference so close to that of Clean Energy BC was a coincidence.
At the clean energy conference, which meets annually, Paul Kariya, executive director of Clean Energy BC, said there’s a need for all providers of energy to work together.
“This shouldn’t be a debate about gradations of greenness or cleanness,” he said in an interview. “Over time, this will sort itself out. Right now, we need the government to focus on its jobs agenda.”
He said new projects planned for the B.C. North will not only create jobs; they will place heavy demand on all energy providers and the clean energy sector wants to be a part of it. There are 68 clean energy projects already up and running in B.C. The sector employs 1,100 people.
“The clean energy sector is alive and well in British Columbia and ready to support the jobs agenda going forward,” Kariya said.
He said it’s not the coal producers across the street that concern him; it’s the provincial government’s review of the Clean Energy Act. He fears the province might bow out of its commitment to reduce carbon emissions 33 per cent by 2020.
Environment Minister Terry Lake told the clean energy producers that he faces “an enormous challenge” meeting that target.
“I don’t want to say that we are going to hit those targets no matter what. They are legislated so if we are not going to hit them, we are going to have to change the law and that’s not something that you easily, or without a lot of thought undertake. So my goal is to make sure we are going to hit those targets because that’s what we are committed to at the moment.”
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun