SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2002

SpruceRoots Magazine - April 2003

A paper on Sustainable Power Generation
presented to the All-Islands Symposium, Haida Gwaii 2003

by Jacques Morin

Chiefs, elders, community leaders and island community members, my name is Jacques Morin and I have lived on Haida Gwaii since 1993. As the Chair of the Haida Gwaii Group of the Sierra Club, with the technical assistance of an excellent non-profit organization from Vancouver, the Pembina Institute, I propose to establish an Island Energy and Economic Development Steering Committee. The role of the steering committee, comprised of various community leaders, stakeholders, elected officials and government staff, will be to initiate a community-wide energy planning process to address the actual environmental, social and economic downturn on the Islands.

My introduction to renewable energy and energy efficiency started four years ago with the Solar Energy International Foundation in Colorado. Since then, I have worked as a consultant to implement alternative energy on the island. I have gained experience installing solar energy, wind power and micro-hydro systems.

The Sierra Club of Haida Gwaii group, which I have chaired for over two years, is part of an international grassroots organization with over 700,000 members, formed to promote wildlife conservation, ecologically sound land-use planning, and careful resource management. It is an organization that has earned respect by supporting successful environmental efforts in BC, and negotiating with all parties in a respectful and professional manner.

My interaction with this land and its people through forestry work such as wildlife biology and silviculture has shaped my passion for this place and the people that live here. I understand that what made the Haida famous throughout the world for their achievements in art and culture can only be possible through the symbiotic connection that the Haida have had with the land and the sea around these Islands for thousands of years.

The industrialization movement and development of corporations as we know them today has fundamentally changed the landscape of our islands and the way individuals and communities have been able to interact and sustain themselves. Unpopular resource management decisions made by mainland interests using divide and conquer tactics resulted in local frustration, mistrust, and deepened the divisions among our communities.

This is beginning to change. Haida people are challenging the courts for their fundamental rights as we speak. We are reclaiming the ability to sustain and protect culture, to make our own decisions, and create our own destiny. Lessons have been learned and today a culture is being reborn. Differences between communities are being set aside for the good of greater goals and trust is being rebuilt. New achievements are on the way vis-à-vis control of local resources, self-reliance, and sustainability. Perseverance is needed and more work is ahead of us.

Faced with high unemployment from the downsizing of the commercial fishing and forest industries our leaders are confronting the challenge of finding new directions. As communities identify new options for economic growth, we should consider how we should supply growing energy needs required by business and local households.

To help us visualize where we stand with our energy demand and supply I have collected a few statistics: 70% of our power is produced by diesel generation. Haida Gwaii has significantly higher emissions per capita than the Canadian average in the commercial and residential sectors. Our biggest sources of emissions are power generation, heating, and transportation.

The burning of fossil fuels [on Haida Gwaii] for power generation creates greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) to the tune of 25,000 tonnes per year. Each person is responsible for 4.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions from electricity consumption alone—while the BC average is 0.7 tonnes. Haida Gwaii is in a very vulnerable position where fossil fuel is concerned. Our current power sources make us dependent on the global oil economy and its fluctuations, creates low levels of employment, and lacks community control. Our current energy practices are subsidized by as much as 76% and produce substantial greenhouse gas emissions per unit of electricity supply. Meanwhile, our Provincial Government is contemplating a new Energy Policy which will prioritize a competitive electricity supply market and could have implications for our economic stability. In light of these facts, citizens and businesses should pay closer attention to true costs of power generation.

The proposed Community Energy Planning engages local and First Nations governments, concerned citizens, energy companies, and public interest organizations to jointly establish objectives for energy supply in the communities. A Community Energy Plan will provide a blueprint for future investments in energy, housing and transportation infrastructure. It will provide a means for evaluating sustainable energy options on Haida Gwaii.

Sustainable energy provides for the needs of the community indefinitely and creates an environment where we can meet our economic and social needs without compromising the environment. Examples of sustainable energy relevant to Haida Gwaii include low-impact hydroelectricity, wind power, district heating, building energy efficiency, biomass cogeneration, hydrogen energy, and sustainable land-use and transportation planning.

The following preliminary objectives have been identified for the community energy planning process, but will be adjusted when key stakeholders are brought to a common table to discuss their respective concerns:

• Reducing or stabilizing energy related costs for community members.
• Facilitating the development and implementation of local, sustainable energy options which could meet the majority of Haida Gwaii’s energy needs.
• Providing local economic development, job training, employment opportunities.
• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental burdens of the current energy systems.
• Expanding community member awareness of energy issues, climate change and other environmental and social impacts of energy choices.

This is not another study that will be put on the shelf to collect dust, but a continuation of the work that has already begun among our communities towards self reliance, sustainability, and healing. It is a consultation process that will help all islanders recognize that environmental improvements can create economic opportunity and cultural reappropriation. We want a completed Community Energy Plan which considers a variety of electricity supply and demand options to meet the community energy needs. The CEP will provide a blueprint for the energy system on Haida Gwaii, it will drive local government policy and will aim to promote investment in sustainable energy options.

Up until now this plan hasn’t been officially proposed to all island organizations and communities, but I am pleased to announce support from the village of Masset, Queen Charlotte City and Haida Gwaii Community Futures. This is why I am taking advantage of this time and this great opportunity to present it to you all. I believe the solutions to energy issues and climate change should not be left to industry alone, but also involve individuals and “Haida Gwaiiens” to take action. If we are not engaged trying to solve these issues, consumer attitudes will be slow to change and underlying consumption patterns will remain in place. Pollution is a product of inefficiency and well designed environmental policies can trigger innovation and lower cost. Our island has some of the world’s best low impact renewable energy resources; I am hoping for your support and looking forward to your participation so we may all become part of the solution. •