Postby Oscar » Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:36 am


Published by Wadena News on April 4, 2012 (with some minor changes & addition of 2 photos)

This was the question posed by Dr. Mark Bigland-Pritchard during his high-powered presentation at St. Peter's Abbey in Muenster on March 17, 2012.

Dr. Bigland-Pritchard, Director of Low Energy Design Ltd of Saskatoon, is well qualified to speak to this issue; he has taught energy studies in two British universities, has two engineering degrees, a Ph.D in architectural physics, has many years' experience in energy and green building consultant, and is currently the lead reseacher for the Green Energy Project Saskatchewan.

He began by referring to the Common Sense declaration of the Bruntland Commission in 1987 which reads: “Sustainability: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, reminding us of the urgency of shifting our energy demands from the quickly-disappearing fossil fuels to alternative sources – while we still have even the slightest chance of preventing irreversible climate collapse. We must find a way to face the threats to sustainability - climate change, peak oil, gas, coal, uranium; radioactive emissions; pollution – and act. Now!

He said, “Last November, the International Energy Agency concluded that we have five years in which to stabilise and begin to reduce GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emission if we are to avoid irreversible climate change. If we fail to meet that deadline, we are most likely condemning future generations to live in a world in which many coastal cities are underwater, much of the world's present agricultural areas have become too hot, too wet or too dry to grow crops, and international affairs are dominated by failed states and an ongoing climate refugee crisis.”

He examined some of the sources of Saskatchewan's GHG emissions: 20% from electricity generation (predominantly coal-fired), 19% from transport, 14% from industrial process heating (nearly all of it in the mining and oil/gas industries), 20% from leakage and venting of methane by the oil and gas industries, 16% from agriculture (methane gas in emissions from livestock, and nitrous oxide loss from soils - both more polluting than CO2), 5% from heating buildings, and the remainder from miscellaneous smaller sources.

In 1990, each Saskatchewan resident was responsible for approximately 43 tonnes of GHG (Green House Gas CO2 equivalent) emissions per year; in 2009, that number had risen to approximately 71 tonnes – the highest in Canada! If we were meeting our emission reduction goal, that number should have been approximately 40 tonnes! By comparison, Quebec's figures dropped over the same period from 12 to 10.4 tonnes per person per year, and Sweden's from 8.5 to 6.5.

Dr. Bigland-Pritchard asked the question: “So, where could Saskatchewan go in its shift to alternative energy generation?”

In reply, he quoted Wayne Gretzky:: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”

He then presented the province's low carbon electrical options, rapidly eliminating two of them. Nuclear fission has well-known problems - high cost, health issues, the (small but devastating) risk of a major accident, the still-unsolved problem of safe and sustainable storage of the lethal waste, and the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. Coal with carbon capture and storage is also extremely expensive, still results in emissions of toxic heavy metals, and uses a finite resource.

Dr Bigland-Pritchard therefore instead advocates Energy Efficiency & Conservation (government's tardiness to force all users of electricity - commercial, industrial and personal - to get with the program towards increasing the efficient use of electricity and to conserve rather than waste electricity. Both uranium and coal will eventually run out – then what?); and Renewable Energy (if so, which ones do we choose to shift our energy sources? Wind, Solar (the sun is sending us 108,000,000,000,000,000,000 kWh/yr . . . more than 10,000 times the energy we need) photovoltaics, Hydroelectricity, Biomass, Geothermal, Solar concentrating thermal).

Dr. Bigland-Pritchard pointed out advantages of Renewable Energy,
“MORE SECURE LOCAL JOBS, DOESN'T RUN OUT, much less pollution, no direct toxic emissions, no radioactive waste.”

He sees it as a POWER DOWN and a POWER UP scenario. POWER DOWN would be accomplished through efficiency and conservation. POWER UP to meet our demands would be met by renewable, sustainable energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectricity, and grid integration), discussing the options and energy generation of each system.

To supply 25% of SaskPower's projected electricity needs in 2030 would require wind turbines spread over only about 250 to 300 km2, out of 10,000 km2 available with sufficient wind speeds. To supply 10% of projected 2030 demand from solar photovoltaics would require only 20 km2, of which 10 km2 could be on buildings or beside east-west highways. While considering a strict ethical criteria considering food security, ecological impact and land rights, the present Saskatchewan potential for electricity from biomass fuels is 15% to 20% of 2030 demand (mostly from forestry and agricultural residue); with successful development of sustainable biochar technology, that could possibly be doubled.

The contribution of hydroelectricity could steadily grow, while designing to avoid significant ecological effects, protect First Nation rights and livelihood, and minimize flooding (which results in methane production). These sources need to be carefully integrated into the grid, with quick response options (hydro and biogas, including the option of imported hydro from Manitoba) compensating for the variability of wind and solar. That variability can be substantially reduced through strategies such as wide geographical distribution, optimizing the mix of wind and solar, introduction of "smart grid" technology to enable users to shift consumption to optimum times, better weather data collection, and energy storage (especially pumped storage, new battery types and compressed air).

He pointed out the progress of other jurisdictions. A detailed study in Germany concludes: “Our scenario computations show that Germany could readily achieve a wholly renewable electricity supply that is both reliable and affordable.” Denmark's government is now targeting "... a total conversion of the Danish energy system ... away from oil, coal and gas .... and to green energy with wind turbines and bioenergy as the most important elements". [note – there is no nuclear power in Denmark either today or in future proposals]. Ontario's current move towards green energy owes much to the Pembina Institute's Renewable is Doable Action Plan; a similar report has prompted more serious action in Alberta's Greening the Grid – Powering Alberta's Future with Renewable Energy.

In closing, Dr. Bigland-Pritchard asked: “The science says WE MUST. The technology says WE CAN. We stand to benefit both socially and economically - what will it take to say WE WILL???”

How will Saskatchewan proceed?

For more information on the Green Energy Project Saskatchewan:

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Elaine Hughes, Chair
Quill Plains Chapter
Council of Canadians
Wynyard, SK

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