Provincial electric utility BC Hydro released its 20-year plan a few months ago, and The Tyee has a useful critique. BC’s energy use is somewhat more efficient than the Northwest states’. But there’s plenty of room for progress.

The plan calls for modest expansion in wind-power and other clean, renewables. But it also glances yearningly at coal and another mega-dam. The plan is far too cautious about renewables, according to Mark Jaccard, a professor at Simon Fraser University who is among BC’s most knowledgeable and innovative thinkers on energy issues.

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  • Usually, BC Hydro is one of Cascadia’s greener utilities, especially where energy efficiency is concerned. But market forces are currently pushing some US utilities into competition. Con.WEB carried a report on the current plans of the Northwest’s larget privately owned utility, Puget Sound Energy, to acquire new power generating capacity. New Washington state wind farms make up the largest share of their intended purchases. A number of other sources make up the remainder, including some power from existing hydro and coal plants. Con.WEB reports

    Natural-gas fired proposals, however, didn’t make the cut. “While natural gas is an efficient, clean-burning fuel for power generation, the currently high cost of natural gas, its price volatility, and the credit requirements to buy and hedge natural gas made such resources less attractive at this time,” [PSE official Eric] Markell said in the news release.

    Also missing were new coal-fired plants, which, “while economically attractive, face significant siting, permitting, and transmission challenges—with no obvious near-term solutions,” said PSE’s release. Markell told Con.WEB the utility is “very carefully monitoring” potential new coal developments, but these are longer-range resource prospects. “It’s not possible to permit and site, construct and put into service a new coal plant much before the end of the decade,” he said.

    Imagine how a stiff tax on pollution, offset with a reduction in sales or payroll taxes, would accelerate this trend toward clean, renewable energy.