by LANA POPHAM, JOHN HORGAN
CONSERVATION IS THE cleanest and least expensive way to meet the increasing demand for electricity in British Columbia. The more energy we conserve now, the fewer new sources of supply our province will need in the future.
Who would disagree with this statement? Certainly not the Ministry of Energy and Mines: this statement is taken directly from the government’s website. Unfortunately, instead of putting action behind these words, the B.C. Liberal government is ending the innovative and cost-effective LiveSmart Small Business Program.
One of the easiest ways for us to conserve energy is to upgrade older buildings to modern standards of energy efficiency. It can be as simple as changing to longer-lasting, more energy efficient LED light bulbs, or improving air sealing so that homes and businesses aren’t "heating the neighbourhood". British Columbia is legally obligated to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent by 2020, and conserving energy is the single best way to move us towards that goal.
The low cost, ease, and simplicity of making big gains through conservation makes it easy to understand why the B.C. Liberals boasted before the election about renewing funds for the LiveSmart Small Business Program. At the time, the government and B.C. Hydro called this funding “big news for small business”. This modest, cost-effective program provides eco-audits for B.C. businesses that want to reduce their energy usage.
What is harder is to understand is why the B.C. Liberals are now ending this program. It’s definitely not for any lack of success. The program was embraced by small business owners, who leveraged the province’s modest investment to make huge gains in energy efficiency and big reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, since 2011 the program has served over 10,000 businesses and inspired business owners to spend millions of dollars to make energy-efficiency improvements. This program has helped business owners save millions in energy costs, lower their electricity use, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
They certainly can’t be cancelling it because the program has completed its work: less than five percent of eligible B.C. businesses have participated in the program. There is much more work to do.
And it certainly can’t be because energy rates are going down for business, with a nine percent rate increase for B.C. Hydro customers which is slated to kick in on April 1; just one day after this successful, efficient program is slated to end.
In fact, the B.C. Liberals are increasing hydro rates by a shocking 28 percent over the next five years. B.C. Hydro is in a mess of the B.C. Liberals' own making after a decade of meddling and mismanagement. And they continue to make things worse by raiding profits that don't exist, forcing B.C. Hydro to go deeper into debt.
Entrepreneurs, big employers, and families across B.C. will pay these massive increases at the same time as the government is stripping away the tools to reduce energy consumption. We need to be doing everything in our power to soften the blow on the small B.C. businesses which are some of our province’s biggest job creators.
Continuing support for the LiveSmart Small Business Program would be a big win for our province’s hard working entrepreneurs, and it could help the government make progress towards meeting the requirements of their own emissions reduction law.
New Democrats will fight to get the LiveSmart Small Business program restored, and to hold the B.C. Liberals accountable for the increased costs being imposed on business and on families.
Lana Popham is the B.C. NDP's small business critic. John Horgan is the B.C. NDP's energy critic.