'Green' Northwest Transmission Line is Anything But

The federal government has committed $130 million of "green infrastructure" funding to a British Columbia project designed to support mining proposals. According to Prime Minister Harper, the proposed 335-kilometer Northwest Transmission Line would contribute to "a more efficient energy grid" and provide "cleaner, greener energy" -- but he overlooked the fact its main purpose is to extend the existing electrical grid to support resource extraction in the province's northwest corner.

"This is not the first place you would extend the grid to if you want to develop renewable energy," said Tom Hackney, BC Sustainable Energy Association vice-president for Policy. "There are more promising areas much closer to population centres where the power is needed. This project is on the books because mine proposals in the area would not be viable without it."

As a secondary benefit, the proposed transmission line would also bring the province's largely clean-energy grid to remote First Nations communities, which presently rely on noisy and polluting diesel generators.

"Though we do need to provide clean power to remote communities, this line would electrify very few communities for its price," said Guy Dauncey, BC Sustainable Energy Association president. "We should develop local sustainable energy to supply these needs, not a $400 million transmission line."

Dauncey suggested that the same federal investment-when combined with matching provincial funds-could make a significant difference for the province's building stock. "Buildings contribute twelve to thirteen percent of B.C.'s total global-warming emissions, so we have a fantastic opportunity to invest in retrofits to increase efficiency and fight climate change," Dauncey added.

A province-wide program of building efficiency retrofits could kick-start Western Canada's green economy. $260 million in federal and provincial spending could leverage $2 billion in private spending, to renovate 150,000 homes and potentially create 30,000 jobs.

The BC Sustainable Energy Association (www.bcsea.org) is a non-profit society that envisions a future in which all of BC's energy needs are met with clean, efficient, renewable energies. We actively promote sustainable energy in BC through practical projects, education and policy development.