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Clean Renewable Energy

West Coast Environmental Law is working on law reform proposals to ensure that the development of renewable energy in BC provides the best protection to the environment while helping to meet the province’s future need for greenhouse gas-free clean power.

As the result of provincial government policy, over the past few years BC has seen a massive increase in plans to develop clean and renewable energy projects. These run-of-river, wind, solar and ocean power projects are known as “independent power projects”, or IPPs, because they are owned independently instead of by the provincial government.

While many British Columbians support the idea of generating more clean and renewable energy, there is significant public concern about the way in which IPPs are being developed in BC. A major reason for this concern is that IPPs are being developed without any strategic planning at the provincial level, or region-by-region. There is no over-arching plan to tell us where these projects should be allowed and where they should be forbidden, based on environmental, social and cultural factors. There are also significant concerns that many of these IPP projects escape environmental assessment, and that not enough consideration has been given to how the cumulative impacts of multiple IPP roads and transmission lines in a particular area could damage a whole watershed.

Many British Columbians are also worried that communities and First Nations will not see sufficient benefits from these projects, and that BC Hydro has been restricted from participating in new development.

West Coast Environmental Law is working with allies to advance law reform solutions to make BC’s energy supply as clean, renewable and low-impact as possible. For example, we have developed a set of Recommendations for Responsible Clean Energy Development in BC. These state that the BC government should:

  • Adopt a renewable energy-planning framework that reduces environmental, social and economic impacts, with public participation and a meaningful and appropriate role for First Nations.
  • Reform water licensing and land leasing decisions and governance to ensure that better decisions are made with more public involvement and community benefits as a key priority of development.
  • Strengthen the environmental assessment process for renewable energy developments.

We are working with other groups to communicate these solutions to the public, key stakeholders, and key decision-makers. Along the way, we will lend our expertise where and when needed to ensure that balanced, accurate and well-researched information is available to those who want to add their voices to the IPP debate.