The leader of B.C.’s New Democrats touted the energy efficient features at the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence on a tour promoting his PowerBC plan, which he said will create jobs in every community in the province.
“I’ve started an initiative called PowerBC which is, in my view, an alternative to the BC Liberal plan of building large dams, like Site C, and instead I believe we should be focusing on 21st century solutions,” John Horgan said in the halls of the Okanagan College Penticton campus during his tour of the Centre of Excellence.
Horgan said the tour was a chance to come to the Interior and Okanagan to talk about what he believes is the new way to approach energy needs in the future. He pointed to the solar panels on the roof of the centre as an example of what that future would hold.
“The Pattison Centre here in Penticton is a living, breathing example of what new technologies can achieve as far as energy conservation, energy efficiency and leading the way through student involvement in creating the new energy future that we’re going to need in a climate change environment,” Horgan said.
The $27.6 million centre which opened its doors in 2011 has received awards in the past including the International Architecture Awards’ Green Good Design award from the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies in 2012.
The photovoltaic solar array on the roof of the centre generates enough power for all the facilities, Horgan said.
“At some points in the long days when there’s more sun, they’re selling power back to the Penticton utility,” Horgan said. “They’re not only keeping the power here at no cost to themselves, but in fact they are making money through using innovative, new dynamic technologies.”
Those are the kind of initiatives Horgan hopes to see more of with his PowerBC plan. The plan looks to protect BC Hydro customers from runaway bills, produce good-paying jobs in B.C., protect farmland and the environment and arguably the most ambitious is to ensure B.C. has access to clean and affordable electricity for generations to come.
A big part of that is retrofitting existing public buildings to be more energy efficient creating jobs in the process. Horgan cited a Statistics Canada report noting that 16 jobs are created for every million dollars invested in retrofitting, compared to the four jobs created by every million dollars invested in new construction.
“Rather than focus on, as the Liberals are, on building a dam on the Peace River, thousands of kilometres away from the load centre, it seems to me more efficient and more job intensive to create opportunities in every corner of the province with new technologies, new building designs that reduce costs and create efficiencies that will reduce our demand for energy over the long term,” Horgan said.
While he acknowledged the scarcity of rare earth metals used to create photovoltaic solar panels, Horgan said the technology is always growing and changing.
“I’m fairly confident that by 2020, 2025, 2030, new ideas are going to be coming to address the rare earth metal issues that are currently bedevilling solar technologies.”
Asked if his PowerBC program could be a bridge between environmentally friendly policy and job creation, Horgan said the amount of jobs created are “limited only by the amount that you’re prepared to spend and the amount you’re prepared to spend is only limited by the opportunities available to you.”
“We are 520 days away from the next election so when we get into that last number of weeks I’ll be laying out in more detail what I’m prepared to spend and where I’m prepared to spend it,” Horgan said.
Public facilities including schools, hospitals and correctional facilities would benefit from improving existing envelopes which Horgan said are currently leaking energy.
“Just improving envelops of our existing public buildings will create jobs in every corner of the province, not just in one location, which is the premier’s approach. If she can find a photo opportunity with hard hats, she’s in, and I think we need to be more creative than that,” Horgan said. “You’ll get more jobs, you’ll save more by looking at conservation first.”