Carbon accounting is a new and complex process that is essential for us, and for the survival of our planet. There is no free lunch: every energy source produces greenhouse gases.
When comparing energy sources, one must do a full, lifecycle carbon accounting. This is where Coun. Richard Barkwill is in error when he states that solar energy creates more greenhouse gases than hydroelectric power (Summerland Review, Feb. 18).
Fully 90 per cent of British Columbia’s electrical energy use is supplied by hydro. We should be eternally grateful to nature for that. But hydro is not all green. Several factors must be accounted for.
First, the massive carbon emissions associated with the concrete and the construction of a hydro dam. Second, the terrestrial carbon sequestration capability that is lost when the dam’s reservoir is created. Third, the carbon emissions from the new water surface of the reservoir. Fourth, the methane emissions from organic decomposition on the reservoir bottom (methane is thirty times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). Fifth, the construction, maintenance and replacement of transmission lines that bring power from distant dams to our cities and towns.
I welcome the discussion about Summerland’s solar project, and about carbon emissions in general; this is an urgent priority. But let’s bring in all the facts, and make sure we are doing full-on, lifecycle carbon accounting.
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