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Powering the city : planning for the future Brown, Colleen F. E.

Abstract

This study addresses a topic that receives very little attention in traditional planning circles: the reliability of the electrical supply in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. The economic and social viability of this region is highly dependent on electrical power and while the electricity needed to supply its critical infrastructure is currently available and relatively inexpensive, research indicates that this may not be the case in the near future. The purpose of this thesis is twofold: first to make the case that the Lower Mainland would benefit from greater redundancy in electrical energy supply and, second, to investigate supply-side options available to create a forward looking, sustainable and secure electrical supply. To understand what some of the challenges to displacing conventional sources of electricity are, academics, members of industry, communitybased organizations and government as well as senior employees of conventional energy providers were interviewed. Twenty-eight local experts were asked to identify both what they perceived as the principle challenges or barriers to the implementation of small-scale renewable energy, and what opportunities exist in this field. The most commonly identified challenges include: i) the relatively high price of alternative technologies, ii) the attitudes and practices of local developers and the current building environment, iii) lack of awareness of energy-related issues and alternatives, iv) the relatively low price of electricity and natural gas, v) status quo municipal land use planning, and vi) uninformed municipal officials. Areas which were identified as important to promote the proliferation of small-scale, renewable generation include: i) the provision of alternative financing mechanisms to overcome high first-costs, ii) new ways to use existing municipal tools, iii) the development of large scale demonstration projects, iv) improved marketing, and v) the enhancement of general and specifically targeted educational and training opportunities. A brief comment regarding possible implementation strategies is also presented.

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