It’s known as “the warm land”, and as soon as you get off the highway Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley certainly has the feeling of pleasant summer warmth, filled with agricultural fecundity. It was the Coast Salish Cowichan people who gave it the name - that’s what cowichan means in the Hul’q’umi’num language.
So solar energy lies deep in the heritage of the valley, and maybe its appropriate that British Columbia’s first solar bulk buy has sprung unto life here, and is pioneering a new approach to solar installations.
Trucking, Ships and Planes - The Tough Part of the Challenge
Back in July, in my quest to see whether British Columbia could become a 100% renewable energy region, I looked at personal transportation. This week I take on the far more challenging task of long-distance trucking, boats, ferries and planes.
Last week I started to explore the possibility that British Columbia could become a 100% renewable energy region, as 140 regions in Germany are planning to become.
This week, we look at transportation. Is it possible that we could get where we want to be and ship our goods where they need to go without any use of fossil fuels?
Helsinki, capital of Finland, is taking a big step in this direction, with its goal that by 2025, nobody will need to own a car in the city at all, thanks to an advanced integrated ‘mobility on demand’ network of shared bikes, transit, LRT, and computer-automated Kutsuplus minibuses that adapt their routes to take you wherever you want to go.
They’re doing it in Germany: 140 regions of the country have set a goal to become 100% renewable energy regions, covering 30% of Germany’s land and 26% of her people, as we learnt in the June BCSEA webinar with Beata Fischer
Could British Columbia do the same? The climate emergency warnings are dire, and the need is great. When viewed historically, it is clear that the age of fossil fuels represents only the tiniest blip of time. Deep down, we know we need to stop using them.
Here in BC, 80% of our greenhouse gas emissions—the direct cause of climate change—come from burning fossil fuels, so it’s clear that a transition is needed.
So, Canada’s federal government has finally approved construction of the proposed Enbridge pipeline that is intended to carry bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to Kitimat, and thence by ocean to China.
If we do not go ahead, the Prime Minister warns us, Canada’s economy will be in grave danger. “No country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country,” he declared a week ago, in a joint statement with the openly climate denying Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott.
Update; March 2015: Norway now has 45,500 EVs. 15% of all new vehicles are electric, and there are 6,000 EV charging stations.
I wish I could have traveled to Norway to research this story—but the Solar Impulse 2, which is on a round-the-world flight with solar-covered wings wider than a Boeing 747—only has room for the pilot.
Norway and British Columbia are very similar. Both have rugged ocean coasts, mountainous terrains and ample hydro electricity, allowing 95% zero-carbon electricity in BC and 100% in Norway. They also have similar populations, with 4.4 million people in BC and 5 million in Norway.
But when it comes to electric cars, is there ever a difference.
How will we heat our buildings when we no longer use fossil fuels? It’s a really big and urgent question that is rarely discussed.
Last week I had to address the problem for Island Health, whose facilities managers are working hard to reduce the carbon footprint of their hospitals and other buildings on Vancouver Island, here in British Columbia.
How do you heat a hospital, if you are not using oil or natural gas?
The US National Climate Assessment is clear, definitive, and very straightforward.
The warnings are stark, and will be no surprise to BCSEA readers. If we fail to act, and to do so decisively, the increase in heat waves will become even more brutal.
Parts of the US southwest will become a permanent dustbowl as soil moisture falls. The deluges of rain will become more frequent. The sea level could rise by up to four feet by the end of the century, threatening the homes of five million people.