About Rural BC Green Energy

Green energy development and transitioning British Columbia to the vision of being a green energy powerhouse are priorities for the Government of British Columbia as reflected in the BC Energy Plan and the Climate Action Strategy. While most analysts see rural BC as having competitive advantages for growth compared to other jurisdictions, a recent Globe Foundation report concluded that the vast majority of BC’s current “Green Economy” is clustered in the Lower Mainland/Southwest region of the province. The report concludes that additional action will be required to ensure that the benefits of the green economy extend out to the other regions of the province.

Rural communities, First Nations and the provincial government are all interested in exploring how green energy development can contribute to regional and community economic growth and diversification. This is especially true in the interior of BC where – as a result of the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) epidemic – local governments and First Nations are keenly interested in facilitating economic growth and diversification. There is also considerable interest amongst many rural communities and First Nations in the MPB epidemic zone to explore the options of creating and operating community-owned green energy utilities.

Several organizations such as the Ministry of Energy and Mines; Community Energy Association; BC Bioenergy Network; BC Climate Action Secretariat; Premier’s Technology Council; Canadian Wind Energy Association; BC Sustainable Energy Association; and others; have developed extensive material and resources for communities outlining the potential rural and community benefits of green energy development. However, these tools are often limited to specific types of green energy (e.g. wind, bioenergy) or are case studies of larger urban projects. Much smaller (i.e. less than 5000 population) rural communities usually lack the resources to fully understand the opportunities associated with green energy development. Policies sometimes inadvertently perpetuate this problem – for example, BC Hydro has a grant program to assist with one form of green energy feasibility assessment – but only communities with 10,000 people or more are eligible. Similarly, green energy companies often focus on working with larger communities (since they have more capacity) and larger scale projects in order to satisfy project timelines and return-on-investment targets. As a result of the above challenges and opportunities, the Green Energy as a Rural Development Tool Project was conceived and developed.

The Green Energy as a Rural Economic Development Tool Project

The purpose of this project is to increase rural knowledge of green energy opportunities and to develop new tools that will facilitate increased rural benefits from green energy development in the MPB epidemic zone of BC.

The project has four major components and objectives:

1) To work directly with a number of small rural interior communities and First Nations in the MPB epidemic zone to assist them in furthering their proposed green energy development projects and concepts. This will include working with rural communities and First Nations to bring in the specialized consulting expertise they will require to conduct either feasibility analysis and business planning for their Green Energy ideas or projects. The work completed in these communities and sub-regions will be thoroughly documented and circulated so that their experiences and knowledge can be passed onto other rural communities in BC.

2) To create and circulate a variety of green energy information resources and analysis tools to rural communities and First Nations throughout the MPB epidemic zone to assist them with the identification and development of green energy development opportunities in their respective communities. For example, several local government staff have indicated that they believe a guidebook – written specifically for local government leaders and staff—that addresses the unique legal, financial and governance issues that local governments need to be aware of when becoming financially involved in green energy projects would be highly beneficial. Other communities have indicated that they would like more detailed information on how green energy technologies might be integrated into future municipal infrastructure upgrades (e.g. inserting a micro-hydro project as part of a water reservoir upgrade). Local government and First Nations leaders represented on the Beetle Action Coalitions have indicated that they would like additional detailed case study information on how other rural communities and First Nations have established and operate their existing green energy projects.

3) To work with green energy industry development organizations and green energy businesses to identify and implement actions that would increase rural community benefits from the green energy sector development in the interior of BC.

4) To organize and deliver a series of regional outreach and knowledge extension activities throughout rural interior BC in order to:

(a) ensure extensive circulation and understanding of the knowledge, material and tools developed as part of this project; and

(b) to provide the opportunity for a number of MPB communities to be able to take advantage of highly specialized green energy consulting expertise in-situ in their own communities to assist in determining the feasibility of their local green energy opportunities.

For example, a micro-hydro power expert might visit two to three rural communities interested in micro-hydro power development. The consultant would be provided relevant background material about each community in advance and would then visit each community to conduct a site-visit and meet with community leaders to discuss the local government or First Nation’s green energy project concept. The intent would be for the consultant to provide a “pre -feasibility” analysis so that the community leaders would have a better sense of project feasibility, construction and operating costs, and required “next steps” to develop the project.