Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Waste Not

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You know you are doing something right when you get three emails, within minutes of each other, suggesting things to blog about.

I am going to pass on the suggestion (sorry, Mr Holden) of the Walmart in town story – it is too close to the “even Walmart” comments at Smart Growth and the thing I did on big boxes on Cambie not so long ago. I am also not going to delve into energy corridors in Wyoming which sound dreadful but also dreadfully complicated.

I recently linked to an article in the Atlantic, so someone there suggested I take a peak at “A steamy solution to global warming” by Lisa Margonelli

Economists like to say that rational markets don’t “leave $100 bills on the ground,” but according to McKinsey’s figures, more than $50 billion floats into the air each year, unclaimed by American businesses. What’s more, the technologies required to save that money are, for the most part, not new or unproven or even particularly expensive. By and large, they’ve been around since the 19th century. The question is: Why aren’t we using them?

Because corporate America doesn’t have to think. It has George W and a hot line to some compliant congressmen and lots of really smart lawyers. As long as there no real reason to do so, why would they think outside the box? Much more comfortable to follow the herd, and buy a table at the next Republican fundraiser. The US government is spending trillions of dollars to ensure that Iraqi oil still flows their way, so why worry about energy efficiency?

Back in 1970 a senior plant manager at ICI told me – quite seriously “There is no money in pollution” – but he was paying my organisation lots of money every year to pull out of the river the guck that his plant was dumping in it further up stream. So that craft serving his plant had enough water under their keels to load efficiently. How do you argue with people like that?

I recently pointed out that we do not in general spend a lot on community energy systems here. Although the City of North Van did and the former Mayor of Vancouver owns a steam distribution business in downtown Vancouver. Because we put what little industry we have left way out in the boonies there are not many ways to connect industry waste heat to places that need heating. But I can think of a few. For instance the cement plants in Richmond and Delta (LaFarge and Tilbury) produce loads of waste heat and they are not so far away from greenhouse country. The last refinery here – Chevron in Burnaby – could send heat to SFU. And then there is the thermal generating station near Ioco. It burns gas to heat water to raise steam to turn the turbines and then dumps warm water into the inlet. And the idea of using more efficient combined cycle gas turbines has been rejected there more than once. Gas turbines also have the advantage of being able (like hydro dams) to meet peak loads very quickly indeed. No, I don’t know why they preferred steam. The reason I mention this location is that it is under review for some major redevelopment by that very smart chap who did SFUniverCity – and I bet he could work a community energy system into his development

Chevron Refinery Burnaby

Photo by Richard Eriksson

Even post industrial Vancouver can get into the heat recycling business. It just requires a change in mind set. For instance what was once BC Hydro could think about selling energy – not just generating electricity. But of course, here it would have to find a P3 partner to skim off the profits first

Written by Stephen Rees

April 21, 2008 at 2:23 pm

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