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Leaping Backwards: Why is Energy Poverty Rising in Africa?

By Sean Sweeney - New Labor Forum, July 18, 2022

How can the world end energy poverty in the Global South and simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change? In 2021, 860 million people had no access to electricity. [1] Today, a third of all humanity lacks access to reliable power. Roughly 2.6 billion people heat their homes with polluting fuels and technologies, and using traditional stoves fueled by charcoal, coal, crop waste, dung, kerosene, and wood.2 The majority of families in the Global South are today able to turn on an electric light—and therefore have “access to electricity” for at least some hours in the day—but for many that is as far as it goes. For other basic needs, dirty and perhaps life-threatening energy continues to be the norm.

The urgency of providing energy to the great numbers of people in the Global South who lack it runs headlong into the necessity to divert climate disaster by reducing worldwide carbon emissions. It is this challenge that sits at he center of current debates on “sustainable development.” For some years, the standard answer from the climate policy world has been the following: the Global South is well positioned to “leapfrog” the phase of centralized energy and jump feet first into the transition to modern renewables, in the same way as mobile phones have proliferated in the developing world without first having to install traditional land-line infrastructure.3 Whereas large nuclear, coaland gas-fired power stations and hydroelectric dams take years to build, by comparison wind, solar, and battery technologies are small, easy to install, and, the argument goes, increasingly affordable. Rural communities without electricity can set up stand-alone “micro- grids,” so there is no need for traditional transmission and distribution grids which are expensive and inefficient. The Global South—which refers broadly to Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, and the developing countries in Asia—is blessed with so much sun and wind, there is no reason why energy poverty cannot be consigned to history relatively quickly.4

That is the good news. The bad news is that it is not happening, and there are few signs that it will.

Talking Climate: Labor

People's Utility Justice Playbook​

By Yesenia Rivera and Johanna Bozuwa - Energy Democracy Project, October 2021

Have you ever wondered who is in charge of your electricity? And why?

The People’s Utility Justice Playbook has two components:

  1. a “History of Utilities” report to summarize the history of utilities for everyone to understand how our current energy system originated.
  2. a “People’s Utility Justice Playbook” to expose the tactics from electric utilities that are undermining community’s efforts, so we can build our organizing strength—to not only fight back but also to build the democratic energy system for climate justice.

This is the basic information we need to fight back against energy utilities attempting to slow or stop progress toward economic and climate justice.

History of Utilities​

Electric utilities have expanded into almost every aspect of our lives to become one of the most powerful and concentrated industries on Earth. To have a better understanding of what we’re fighting against, we first need to learn about the history of energy utilities! This PDF summarizes the entire timeline and how the rise of energy democracy came about.

People's Utility Justice Playbook

In order to fight the industry-owned utilities’ tactics, we need our own strategies for combat!

We have our very own playbook sourced from energy justice activists on the ground. They suggest strategies and tactics they employ when fighting against utilities that anyone fighting against utilities could use!

Read the History (PDF).

Read the Playbook (PDF).

Renewable energies and ‘green hydrogen’: Renewing destruction?

By Joanna Cabello - World Rainforest Movement, July 9, 2021

Industrial-scale renewable energy infrastructure has seen a revival in the agenda of the ‘energy transition’ and as part of the economic recovery plans in front of the pandemic. Besides, the production of so-called ‘green hydrogen’ from these projects adds another layer of injustices. The energy matrix and over consumption remain untouched.

In a 2020 statement from the International Hydropower Association, the world’s largest hydropower corporations are calling on governments for “fast-track planning approvals” to ensure new large dams construction can commence as soon as possible. (1) The hydro energy industry is also lobbying to make sure large dams are seen as essential to the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and to “the transition to net-zero carbon economies” (2), casting devastating projects as both ‘clean’ and central to a ‘green energy transition’.

Industrial-scale renewable energy, including hydro, wind and solar, is positioned as a solution to our ever-increasing energy consumption. On top of this, the production of the so-called ‘green hydrogen,’ adds another layer of injustices related to this mega infrastructure. Yet, the replacement of the energy source by no means addresses the real problem posed by the excessive levels of energy consumption, which are driven by accumulative economic growth. This also leaves unchallenged the violence intrinsic to the societies that such energy powers. (3)

Many corporate and state actors are pushing for increasing their capacity to produce and use hydrogen as part of the ‘green’ recovery plans from the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. It is becoming central in the ‘green transition’ debates. The German government has announced plans to spend 9 billion euros (UD10.7 billion dollars) supporting its domestic hydrogen industry. (4) Likewise, the European Commission has started to promote hydrogen as a way of cutting carbon emissions and reaching its Green Deal climate targets. The EU plans to scale up ‘renewable hydrogen’ projects and invest a cumulative amount of 470 billion euros (US740 billion dollars) by 2050. (5) Moreover, US Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, said that hydrogen “will help decarbonize high-polluting heavy-duty and industrial sectors [in the United States] (…) and realizing a net-zero economy by 2050.” (6)

Energy Self-Reliant States 2020: Third Edition

By Maria McCoy and John Farrell - Institute for Local Self-Reliance, September 2020

If each U.S. state took full advantage of its renewable resources, how much electricity would it produce? How much of its own electricity consumption could renewable energy fulfill? Would in-state renewable generation be enough to charge electric vehicles and power electric heating, too? In 2010, ILSR published the first national overview of state renewable electricity potential with the second edition of Energy Self-Reliant States (ESRS). At the time, most states were setting ambitious goals to attain 25 percent renewable electricity.

Now, several states and over 100 U.S. cities have made truly ambitious commitments to 100 percent renewable power. Fortunately, this third edition finds a better technical outlook and a brighter economic picture than a decade ago. States have much better renewable energy resources than they thought. Also, the costs of renewable electricity sources, like wind and solar, have declined precipitously. The 20-year average cost (often called the “levelized cost”) of solar electricity has declined from around $0.200 per kilowatt-hour for small scale projects to $0.091 per kilowatt-hour. The decline is even more dramatic for utility-scale solar, with the levelized cost falling from $0.120 to about $0.037 per kilowatt-hour. Wind energy costs have declined by significant margins, as well, from around $0.13 to $0.04 per kilowatt-hour.

Clean energy is not only affordable, it is a big contributor to the U.S. economy. At the start of 2020, the clean energy industry employed 3.3 million people – that’s 40 percent of America’s energy workforce. The clean energy sector is strong and growing stronger; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that solar installers and wind technicians will be the fastest growing occupations in the next decade.

Read the text (PDF).

Climate change policy in B.C. must deal with controversies – Kinder Morgan, Site C, and more

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, December 4, 2017

In his November 30 article, “Where is B.C. headed on climate action?”, Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives begins with a bit of history – November 2017 marks the 10 year anniversary of the passage of  B.C.’s  Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act, followed by B.C.’s carbon tax, the first in North America, in 2008.  His overview then discusses climate change policy since the Liberal government and its Climate Leadership Team (CLT)  were replaced by the government of the New Democratic Party in Summer 2017.  Specific issues raised: the new government may still be considering the  development of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) on the north coast; an inadequate annual increase to the carbon tax of just $5 per tonne per year (instead of the $10 per tonne recommended by the CLT); the need for a public inquiry into fracking  (as called for by the CCPA and 16 other organizations); and the need for leadership on more stringent regulation of methane emissions.  The author concludes:  “The BC government’s opposition to Kinder-Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline expansion is laudable. But there is much left to be done on climate action in BC… We need an action plan commensurate with the urgency posed by climate change and the aspirations of leadership claimed by BC politicians.”

Although Marc Lee has written about the controversial Site C Dam project previously, he doesn’t include it in this overview, although it is still very much a live issue.   Following the Report of the Independent Review of the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC)  on November 1, the government indicated it would decide by December 31 whether to proceed with the project or not.  On December 1, the B.C. Green Party, the government’s coalition partner, sent an Open Letter to the Premier, arguing for cancellation of Site C on the grounds that it is likely to continue to exceed budget, and that alternative sources of energy are now cheaper.  Questions about the job creation forecasts used to justify the original decision have also been raised – most relying on the latest analysis from the University of British Columbia Water Governance Institute. Their latest  full report  was released on November 23; a 2-page Briefing Note also released argues that terminating Site C and pursuing  the alternative scenario put forth by BCUC would create three times as many jobs as the construction and operation of Site C by 2054, albeit with short-term job losses.  The longer term scenario forecasts jobs in site remediation, energy conservation, and alternative energy projects, including in the Peace River region.  Commentary on the jobs debates has appeared in “Digging for The Truth on Site C Dam Job Numbers ” in DeSmog Canada (Nov. 16) and  in “ A BC without Site C best bet for taxpayers ” an Opinion piece in The Tyee written by  Jay Ritchlin of the David Suzuki Foundation, which labels the call for current construction jobs as “a red herring”.

Also in The Tyee:Construction Unions Pressing for Completion of Site C” (Nov. 24) , which takes a deep dive into a recent press conference of the Allied Hydro Council of BC, a bargaining agent for unions at previous large hydro projects, and an advocate of the Site C project. The detailed article, outlining ties between the Council and the NDP government, is by Sarah Cox, author of  Breaching the Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand Against Big Hydro (UBC Press, forthcoming Spring 2018).    The Allied Hydro Council submission to the BCUC Inquiry is here .

Just Transition — Part 4: the Highlands of Hydro

By Chris Silver - DeSmog UK, November 22, 2018

Site C Dam Decision Causes Friction Within NDP Ranks Ahead of Provincial Council Meeting

By Sarah Cox - DeSmog Canada, February 2, 2018

When B.C. cabinet members arrive at the NDP’s provincial council meeting tomorrow in New Westminster, they will face a group of “very concerned” delegates and party members who are urging the government to reconsider its decision to proceed with the Site C dam.

We’re not going to let this rest,” said Jef Keighley, vice-president of the Surrey South NDP constituency association. “The NDP campaigned on the whole concept of transparency so let’s be transparent.”

Keighley is one of 400 people — the majority of them NDP members and supporters — who attended a Site C Summit in Victoria last weekend aimed at making the government accountable for its decision to continue with Site C and outlining an action plan to stop the $10.7 billion project on the Peace River.

We believe the NDP cabinet was misled in its ill-considered decision to proceed with Site C,” states a letter from summit participants to NDP provincial council delegates and observers, a copy of which was provided to DeSmog Canada.

A reconsideration and reversal of that decision, sooner rather than later, is critical to the long-term interest of the people of B.C.”

The letter says it is “imperative” that the provincial council agenda be amended to include a discussion on Site C. The main items on the agenda are currently the upcoming provincial budget and proportional representation.  

The council, which meets four times a year, is the governing body of the NDP between conventions, with input on issues from cabinet and the NDP’s provincial office. Constituency associations around the province elect voting delegates to the council.

Alternatives to the Site C Dam Will Create Way More Jobs: UBC Analysis

By Judith Lavoie - DeSmog Canada, November 28, 2017

Alternatives to the $10 billion Site C dam would produce significantly more jobs than construction of the controversial hydroelectric dam, according to a new study led by the University of British Columbia.

The analysis by researchers from UBC’s Program on Water Governance found that if Site C is scrapped, there would be modest job losses in the short-term — 18 to 30 per cent until 2024 — but job gains of between 22 and 50 per cent through 2030.*

A recent three-month investigation conducted by the B.C. Utilities Commission found alternatives to Site C, including wind energy and conservation measures to reduce provincial electricity demand, could replace the dam at an equal or lower unit energy cost.

By 2054, the B.C. Utilities Commission alternative portfolio will have created three times as many jobs as Site C,” Karen Bakker, one of the authors of the report and co-director of the Program on Water Governance, told DeSmog Canada.

Site remediation, geothermal construction and energy conservation will create thousands of jobs each year,” she said.

Alternative energy, such as wind power, creates many more jobs for every dollar spent, Bakker told DeSmog Canada.

Digging for The Truth on Site C Dam Job Numbers

By Sarah Cox - DeSmog Canada , November 16, 2017

Site C jobs are often cited as a main reason to proceed with the $9 billion dam on B.C.’s Peace River. But how many jobs would Site C actually create? Are there really 2,375 people currently employed on the project, as widely reported this month?

DeSmog Canada dove into Site C jobs numbers. We found dubious claims, political spin, and far too much secrecy.

  • Number of direct construction jobs BC Hydro said Site C would create in March 1991: 2,182  [1]
  • Number of Site C direct construction jobs promised by Premier Gordon Campbell in April 2010: 7,650  [2]
  • Number of Site C direct construction jobs promised by Premier Christy Clark in December 2014: 10,000  [3]
  • Workforce at peak employment at the W.A.C. Bennett dam, B.C.’s largest dam, in the 1960s:  3,500  [4]
  • Workforce at peak employment at the Peace Canyon Dam in the 1970s: 1,100  [5]
  • Number of pages redacted from the B.C. Liberal government’s response to a 2016 Freedom of Information request asking for documents related to Site C’s job creation figures: 880  [6]
  • Time it took to receive the request: 11.5 months
  • Number of pages with redactions  in BC Hydro’s 692-page response to a 2017 Freedom of Information request asking for daily worker headcounts at Site C: 692[7]
  • Date BC Hydro said it did not have daily and weekly headcounts for Site C workers on the project site or staying at the workers’ lodge: October 12, 2017  [8]
  • Number of people BC Hydro’s Site C main website page says were employed on the project in September 2017: 2,375  [9]
  • Number of Full Time Employees (FTEs) among them: unknown
  • Minimum number of days a contract worker must be employed to be included in BC Hydro’s monthly Site C jobs tally: unknown
  • Approximate number of direct construction contract workers included in the September 2017 Site C workers tally: 1,164  [10]
  • Approximate number of other contract workers included in the September 2017 Site C workers tally: 750  [11]
  • Number of engineers and project team staff, including at BC Hydro’s head office in Vancouver, included in the September 2017 Site C workers tally: 461  [12]
  • Number of workers laid off at the Site C construction site in August 2017: 120  [13]
  • Number of workers laid off at the Site C construction site in September 2017: approximately 200  [14]
  • Number of workers laid off over Thanksgiving weekend, 2017: approximately 60[  15]
  • Number of workers laid off in early November 2017: approximately 30  [16]
  • Mentions of the layoffs on BC Hydro’s website: 0
  • Current number of Site C workers according to Liberal MLA Mike Bernier: 2,400  [17]
  • Cost of Site C in 2010: $6.6 billion
  • Cost of Site C in 2012: $7.9 billion
  • Cost of Site C in December 2014: $8.8 billion
  • Cost of Site C in November 2017: potentially more than $10 billion  [18]
  • Date BC Hydro filed a quarterly report with the B.C. Utilities Commission saying Site C was on budget and on track to meet its 2024 completion date: September 29, 2017  [19]
  • Date the BCUC released a report saying it is not persuaded Site C will be finished on time and that the project is over-budget with completion costs that could exceed $10 billion: November 1, 2017
  • Date the B.C. government will make a final decision about Site C: before December 31, 2017

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