Letters to the editor 

Page 3 of 4

Green energy is good because electric power is necessarily generated precisely to the level of demand (there's no 'inventory' possible other than what is stored as hydroelectric potential behind dams or in the form of gas and coal), so adding green power to the system necessarily reduces demand for a like amount of less-green power from some other source.

Small-scale geothermal heat exchangers that heat and cool homes and industrial buildings are a green technology and are here now, but financial break-even against simply buying the power from B.C. Hydro only appears about seven years after installation. Most people and businesses can't afford this high up-front financial load even though the pay-back may be there in the long-run. Perhaps government needs to create a loan program so that more of these can be installed.

Hydrogen fuel cells evoke plenty of myths, one of which is that they are ready for prime-time. The fact is, they are nowhere near commercialization for general markets, besides which there is no infrastructure in place to deliver the hydrogen they require, a separate but equally massive problem. Reformer fuel cells that convert hydrocarbons like gasoline, natural gas and methanol to hydrogen before burning are also technologically immature and are not going to address the pollution or hydro-carbon supply-chain problem. They also aren't yet economical except in special cases where the very high cost is justifiable – e.g. for use as stationary and portable emergency generators. There is a lot of promise here but the wait isn't over.

Ultimately, stationary fuel cells, small wind and solar units, micro hydro-turbines, and geothermal systems in the home and in commercial buildings will be a boon to the energy picture, but this scenario is still many years away. Why? Four reasons: legislation, infrastructure, technology, and finance.

Deregulation of the electricity distribution system is one prerequisite so that surplus energy generated by small plants can actually be sold back to the grid. The idea is that while you sleep, unused power from your home generator flows back to the grid and is consumed elsewhere, meanwhile the big hydro dams, coal, and gas plants can lower their output. You get a credit on your hydro bill. But each such installation requires a fancy new two-way electric meter that measures both out-flow and inflow, a "smart" switch so that the power authority can reliably stop your power going out if linemen are working the line, and power electronics that step up the voltage from your small system's to the grid's. These technologies are here now but they have a substantial up-front cost.

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