It looks like the German government is (finally) getting serious about decarbonizating their energy by massively investing equally in wind and solar energy and many other countries are doing likewise. Germany, which receives between 15 and 35% less sunshine than BC, already has 60,000 MW of solar PV. BC has a piddly 50 MW! Between now and 2030 – the period that the IPCC identified as absolutely critical (‘Code Red’ in their words) in getting a handle on climate change – Germany will install 15,500 MW of solar every year.
Adjusted for population, BC would be installing 950 MW of solar annually. This may sound like a lot, and let’s face it, it is, but we missed the ferry on decarbonization a long time ago. Now have to scramble to switch to non carbon-emitting energies like solar, wind and geothermal at 5-7% a year to meet BC’s climate commitments.
We are embarrassing laggards when it comes to cleaning up our energy arena, where almost 80% of the energy consumed still comes from burning fossil fuels – with about half going to transportation and another large proportion to heating water and buildings.
To stop burning stuff, we need to electrify. Installing those 950 MW solar on rooftops, box stores, parking lots, under transmission lines, on reservoirs (floatovoltacis), farms (agrivoltaics) and brown fields is highly feasible and would cost less than $2 billion a year. For every MW installed, BC would save over 1140 metric tonnes of CO2e over burning fossil fuels (methane, propane, gasoline, diesel) – that would go a rather long way to the urgently needed decarbonization of the BC energy system. It would also create about 15 local jobs for each MW.
The time to sit on the fence expired a couple of decades ago. We must act now, and it looks the little people have to lead the way while the politicians discuss transition fuels, or the rainbow colours of hydrogen and other pies in the sky. We have the tools, and the technology. Now we must find the will and money to handle the crisis. What are we waiting for?
Tom Mommsen & Risa Smith, SSREC