People wanting to learn more about renewable were in Kouchibouguac National Park on October 4 to hear alternative energy advocate Roland Chiasson talk about renewable energy as the best way forward in a world facing climate change catastrophe from fossil fuel pollution.
Chiasson, chair of EOS Eco-Energy’s Board of Directors in Sackville, told Kent County residents that solar energy is already a better option than fossil fuels for creating jobs while protecting the environment. Production costs for renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and biomass, have been dropping steadily for more than 30 years and are now competitive with non-renewable energy sources.
In terms of jobs, Chiasson noted that investing $1,000,000 in oil and gas creates a mere two jobs, compared to 15 jobs created by the same investment in clean energy (wind, solar, hydro, biomass). In Canada today, almost 24,000 people are directly employed in the clean energy sector, compared to fewer than 22,000 jobs in the Alberta oil sands.
“The cost of producing solar energy has been dropping steadily for decades,” Chiasson said, noting that by 2021 the cost of producing solar power is projected to be lower than production costs for non-renewable electricity sources.
His presentation also cited a Canadian Press report that said $24 billion has been invested in clean energy in Canada since 2009. Similarly, CBC news has recently reported that renewable energy will account for 25% of the world’s energy by 2018.
Notre environnement, notre choix / Our Environment, Our Choice, an environmental group operating in Kent County, organized the event entitled, “Renewable Energy and You.”
Notre environnement, notre choix / Our Environment, Our Choice was formed as a citizens’ group helping local residents resist provincial government attempts to force shale gas development on them. While its members are currently working on plans for local food production and sustainable development, almost all believe that the provincial Liberal government of Brian Gallant will, like the Conservative government it defeated in 2014, flip-flop on shale gas and again attempt to force the industry on them and their communities.
Gilbert Blanchard is a Kent Country resident who is alarmed about the seeming willingness of government and some people to turn a blind eye to climate change.
Blanchard sees the unprecedented frequency of severe weather conditions as indicating things are getting worse. “In early October we had seen inches of rain in a day and a half,” he says. “We’ve never had that before!”
“If things don’t change, in another 20 years we’ll have to garden indoors,” he says. “In five years the situation is going to be even worse, and while more people will be ‘thinking green’ by then, a lot more damage will also have been done.”
“Renewable energy is the only way to go, and we need to go beyond talking about what can be done to learning how to actually do it!” Blanchard already takes great care not to waste water or electricity, and now wants practical information to help him do more.
EOS Eco-Energy was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2004, focusing on educational outreach and raising awareness about energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable technology projects. It coordinates a variety of research, action and education projects that relate to energy sustainability and climate change in the Tantramar region of southeast New Brunswick.
“EOS energy projects have included installing electric vehicle charging stations, offering information sessions on topics like living off the grid, and organizing campaigns that reduce energy consumption,” Chiasson said.
Chiasson’s presentation also featured several examples of New Brunwick families who have slashed their home energy costs by using alternative energy technologies now available.
The first, most cost-effective step is “to make your home more energy efficient through retrofitting and adding additional insulation before installing renewable energy technologies,” Chiasson said.
That means doing things in your home “like putting in an energy efficient furnace, insulating attics, basements and windows, setting thermostats for lower night settings, turning off computers, televisions, and sound systems when not in use, and replacing old style light bulbs with energy efficient ones.”
As well as providing information and advice to individuals and families looking for ways to drastically reduce their energy bills, EOS Eco-Energy also works at a community level.
EOS’s Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit was prepared for residents and communities in the Tantramar Region (Sackville, Port Elgin, Dorchester, Memramcook) of southeast New Brunswick. It provides local information on ways to adapt to climate change effects.
Chiasson told the Kouchibouguac meeting that EOS’s sustainable energy projects include a Standby Power Campaign, Residential Energy Efficiency surveys, and solar energy workshops.
He also reviewed the work of Renewables NB, an organization providing information and advice on small-scale renewable energy projects in New Brunswick. In northeast New Brunswick, that work involves a biomass project at Bathurst Chaleur Regional Hospital, the use of passive solar at a retirement home in Miramichi, and an active solar installation on a hotel in Dieppe.
Susan Hopkins McQuarrie helped organize the Kouchibouguac event. “New Brunswick needs to develop energy sources that don’t destroy the planet,” she said. “Renewable sources of energy are the answer because they present obvious, practical alternatives to fossil fuels.”
Hopkins McQuarrie said, “New Brunswick can be a leader in developing renewable energy,” and points to the Scandinavian region of Europe as a good example of what can be done here.
“Most of Scandinavia is geographically and demographically similar to New Brunswick,” she says, “and the example of what they’ve done facing similar challenges to New Brunswick shows what can be done here.”
One such example is developing local community-based systems using renewable sources for the generation of electricity.
“Places like Scandinavia are miles ahead of us in developing renewable energy sources that, unlike fossil fuels, are clean, generate sustainable jobs, and create a healthy environment for people to live in and raise their families.”
Hopkins-McQuarrie offers praises the work of the EOS Eco-Energy group and its projects in the Tantramar Region of New Brunswick. She would like to see the provincial government here provide the necessary support for groups like EOS Eco-Energy and Renewables NB to expand all across the province the excellent work they are doing.
“Our provincial government needs to stop being a hamster on a fossil fuel treadmill that goes round and round without ever moving forward,” she says.
“The time for renewable energy sources is now. Renewables are good for the economy, good for our health, good for raising children. What we need is a government with the vision to see all that renewables have to offer.”
Dallas McQuarrie is a NB Media Co-op news writer based in Kent County.