Dyer: Dont get too smug about B.C.’s hydroelectric

Kristy Dyer is a columnist for Black Press Media who writes about the environment

B.C. often feels a bit smug about energy use in regards to climate change. After all, most of our electricity comes from carbon-free hydro dams. The trouble with that attitude is that electricity is actually a small fraction of BC’s total energy use.

Electricity is actually a small fraction of BC’s total energy use

We tend to focus on personal energy choices: heating our houses, driving our cars. Personal use (residential and personal transport on the chart) has a role, but it is a small one. The energy used in freight transport — think tractor-trailers with logs, toilet paper or cars — is larger than personal transport. The energy used by industry is twice that of freight transport.

READ MORE: Inquiry into wood-to-fuel plant feasibility requested

While the energy that goes into freight and industrial production aren’t at the front of our minds when we buy an appliance or build a house, we can’t do without them. Let’s look at them separately:

Freight: Electric passenger vehicles have become practical due to two developments: reduction of the weight of vehicles (true for all passenger vehicles not just EV) and increased battery capacity. Freight trucks present a significant challenge: there’s no practical way to reduce their load, and they expect to haul loads non-stop across North America. There are several companies working on electric semi trucks (including Volvo, Daimler and Tesla) but development is way behind electric cars.

READ MORE: FortisBC partners to fund smart energy research chair at UBC Okanagan

Industrial production: Industry’s energy use is more problematic. Many chemical and metal-working plants require extreme heat, which are easily provided by carbon-intensive fuels. Medium heat can be generated with electricity (which in turn can come from wind, solar or hydro). Heat above 120 C is tricky: Rather than the inexpensive solar panels used to generate residential electricity, it could be supplied by concentrated solar. It can’t use geoexchange, but could use deep geothermal, tapping the earth’s core. The best options may come from biofuels made of wood waste, which can be carbon neutral with responsible forest stewardship.

We have to take responsibility for carbon beyond our homes and cars

Looking at the Sankey diagram, you can see why BC is intently focused on moving personal transport to electric vehicles. It’s the only category where there is a clearly developed pathway to reduce carbon. But it’s not the largest generator of carbon in BC and we have to take responsibility for carbon beyond our homes and cars.

The Sankey chart above is inspired by CESAR (Canada Energy Systems Analysis Research) at the University of Calgary.

I apologize for any inaccuracies I have introduced while trying to simplify the data. You can find the complete chart here. The full chart is fascinating: it shows energy losses across the system, Canada’s imports and exports, and has a carbon version, where it’s clear that petroleum, coal and natural gas are having a large impact on the Canadian carbon footprint.

Missed last week’s column?

Dyer: DIY energy audit with solar bonus material

About Kristy Dyer:

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 closes Okanagan College summer camps

Popular Camp OC put on shelf from Salmon Arm to Penticton, and Revelstoke, until 2021

COVID-19: SD67 approves budget reductions

Staff positions will be cut to balance budget

COVID-19: Pre-recorded graduation events planned for students in School District 67

Graduates from Penticton Secondary have created petition to urge postponement of grad ceremonies

COVID-19: SD67 plans restart program for Penticton, Summerland students

District following provincial guidelines as students return to classrooms on June 1

Summerland adopts sign policy for Bottleneck Drive members

Policy governs directional signs for wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries

Video: Okanagan mayors encourage water conservation this summer

Water conservation this summer could be more important than ever, experts say

Drug-pricing petition garners thousands of signatures

Petition started by Chilliwack mom also drew support of Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl

Body of missing woman found in Kelowna

Kelly Joy Zuchotzki was last seen on May 24

‘Paralyzed by fear’: B.C. woman details anxiety, grief at Italian relief hospital

Sheila Vicic spent two months in Italy as the country grappled with COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

Almost half of shops in North Okanagan mall reopened

Reduced food court capacity, curb-side pickup program en route

CAMH survey looks at binge-drinking, financial anxiety during COVID

Alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism for those whose careers may have been sidelined due to the pandemic

Half of Canadians say governments are hiding something about COVID-19: poll

More than a third of people believe the virus was created in a lab

Morning Start: Why is it so dangerous to wake a sleepwalker?

Your morning start for Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Most Read