Recent claims from ex-bureaucrat miss the mark when it comes to clean energy costs, writes Kwatuuma Cole Sayers
Our province is entering a new era of clean energy development. With rapidly growing demand from the electrification of transportation, business, and industry, the BC government recently announced a call for new sources of emissions-free power. This presents an exciting opportunity for BC to benefit from the technology improvements and cost reductions achieved by wind and solar power over the past decade.
Although it is globally recognized that wind and solar are the cheapest forms of new energy today1,2, they continue to have their naysayers. A recent article in Business in Vancouver argued that wind power is actually not very affordable because it needs to be overbuilt to make up for its variable generation. Using an estimated cost-per-turbine, the author argues that the result will be almost as expensive as the capital cost of Site C.
The arguments are flawed in several ways, not least because they confuse capacity and generation. If you build the capacity to produce 3,000 GWh of energy per year, then you will get 3,000 GWh of energy per year, no matter the source. Basing calculations on an estimated cost per turbine is highly speculative, as it involves making assumptions about turbine size years into the future. Wind turbines today are bigger and more efficient than ever before and the technology continues to advance.3,4,5 As for the cost of land for these projects, Crown land rentals flow back to the province as additional revenue, generating a benefit for all taxpayers. The true metric for the upcoming call for power will be that it delivers the affordable and clean electricity that BC needs. Study after study shows that renewable energy sources such as wind and solar consistently yield the lowest price per unit of energy. A competitive and fair procurement process will deliver these competitive results for British Columbian ratepayers.
The call for power will include another essential element: advancing Indigenous reconciliation. Indigenous communities across Canada have benefitted from participating in renewable energy projects for over 20 years. These projects have proven to be a catalyst for further economic growth and self-determination. The BC government has recognized the opportunity that new wind and solar projects represent to advance reconciliation and discussions are underway on options for minimum Indigenous participation in any successful projects.
The global trajectory towards renewable energy adoption, particularly the soaring utilization of wind power, stands as a testament to its economic viability and sustainability benefits. Nations worldwide are aggressively investing in wind energy as a core component of their energy portfolios. From Europe to Asia and the Americas, countries are harnessing the power of wind to meet their electricity needs while mitigating climate change impacts and showcasing its efficacy and affordability. Countries like Denmark, for instance, have successfully integrated wind power, with it constituting a significant portion of their electricity generation. Germany and Spain also stand as notable examples, demonstrating the viability and success of wind energy adoption on a larger scale.
One recent notable example highlighting the prowess and potential of wind energy is Hydro Quebec’s recent announcement to ramp up wind energy production by an additional 10,000 MW. This bold move not only emphasizes the confidence in wind energy but also underscores its substantial contribution towards meeting energy demands sustainably. Such initiatives not only bolster local economies but also reinforce the critical role wind energy plays in securing a cleaner and more sustainable future.
This commitment to expanding wind energy in Quebec parallels the transformative opportunities that wind projects offer for British Columbia. It reinforces the trajectory towards a future where renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, serve as cornerstones for a robust and diversified energy mix.
Moreover, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the cost of wind power has been consistently declining, making it one of the most competitive sources of electricity globally. Technological advancements, economies of scale, and streamlined manufacturing processes have contributed significantly to reducing the cost of wind energy installations across continents.
The ongoing innovations in wind turbine design and efficiency have remarkably increased their performance and reliability. As a result, many regions worldwide are embracing wind power as a pivotal component of their energy transition strategies, underscoring its role in driving sustainable development and combating climate change.
By leveraging the experiences and successes of various jurisdictions, British Columbia can further solidify its commitment to renewable energy while tapping into the vast potential of wind power to bolster its clean energy portfolio. Embracing wind energy not only aligns with global trends but also positions BC as a forward-thinking leader in the pursuit of a sustainable and resilient energy future.
With demand for clean electricity rising, BC is taking the right steps to ensure that the province will have sufficient clean power for decades to come. The new era of clean energy development means new jobs throughout the province, economic growth for Indigenous and rural communities, and new investment coming to BC. The clean energy sector is ready to seize this opportunity and deliver the affordable and clean power that BC needs.