The Clean Energy Act (the “Act”) is the government’s attempt to find a way forward in the renewable electricity sector, which has been rife with heated debate and community opposition. Much of this opposition has resulted from the absence of credible, transparent and inclusive planning to limit the potentially harmful environmental, economic and social impacts of new generation while maximizing public benefit. While the Act sets out a basic framework to conduct electricity planning, West Coast Environmental Law is concerned that the Act as currently framed will not ensure inclusive and comprehensive energy planning, will not succeed in avoiding unnecessary environmental impacts, and will not ensure that the scaling up of renewable electricity generation achieves social license and broad public buy-in to create the certainty needed by industry.
In particular, West Coast Environmental Law is concerned that the Clean Energy Act:
- Fails to commit the province to achieving its energy objectives with the lowest possible environmental impact.
- Fails to ensure a transparent, inclusive and comprehensive planning process. The Act:
- does not guarantee meaningful public consultation in the planning process,
- eliminates independent oversight of energy planning and many major projects,
- does not require regional planning to identify the best options for development, and
- short-circuits the planning process by predetermining critical policy questions.
- Does not respond to the need identified by First Nations for greater involvement in both renewable electricity decision-making and development in their traditional territories.
The government and legislature must work rapidly in consultation with First Nations, conservation groups and the concerned public to ensure that these deficiencies are redressed through amendments to the Clean Energy Act, or through appropriate regulations and direction to BC Hydro.
West Coast Environmental Law firmly supports renewable electricity generation as one way to mitigate against the effects of climate change. We understand that BC is positioned to play a unique leadership role in Canada and North America on renewable energy. However, this leadership should also be exercised in ensuring the best possible process to meet our renewable electricity needs, and that the most robust environmental protection is in place as our province moves in that direction.