At a Nelson renewable energy forum on Sept. 28, the newly-formed Columbia Institute for Renewable Energy (CIRES) made a case for urgent, collective action within the Kootenay-Boundary/Columbia region to address mounting concerns over our warming climate.
Bringing together a diverse group of participants from energy companies, businesses, provincial and regional government, NGOs, and youth groups, CIRES speakers described both the context of the climate crisis and the opportunity to the region to create green jobs, as we take urgent action to transition to a zero emissions economy.
The hybrid gathering of almost 60 people, split between in person attendance and virtual presence, discussed opportunities for increasing local renewable energy generation and the growth of emerging technologies such as floating solar, green hydrogen and micro-hydro generation.
CIRES president Eden Yesh noted that “CIRES was created by a group of like-minded individuals focused on renewable energy and environmental restoration in the Kootenays. Leadership and collaboration are critical and we’re stepping up to play our part.”
The six-hour long session enabled attendee participation through break-out sessions and polls, generating ideas and connecting initiatives. Beyond making the case for urgent action, the CIRES team made it clear that our region can turn a necessity into a virtue by establishing climate-resilient renewable energy systems that create economic opportunity.
The CIRES team spoke of the shifting culture and desire for resilience which is driven not only by recent extreme weather events but also by the pandemic. Participants also learned how the economics of renewables now makes them the cheapest form of new energy.
In his presentation on the potential of green hydrogen, CIRES board member Bruce Wilson added: “I want the young people of our region to see optimism and opportunity in the transformation of our economy, and I want to make it clear to people from all walks of industry — we need your skills, and your experience, to build a resilient and prosperous net-zero future for all.”
Attendees spoke of the sense of can-do and the broad desire for collective action. The occasion for networking and connecting people to projects created a sense of forward momentum. The opportunity created by coming together in a region still concerned with COVID was not lost on those who attended in person. It was particularly impressionable as this was the first in-person event many had attended since COVID hit. Attendees were required to be fully vaccinated and screened for COVID symptoms.
Ultimately, the value of such an event will be measured by the sustained energy that the event creates. CIRES board member Laura Sacks summed this up by noting that “A stunning double rainbow after the event felt like a good sign that we can tap into our collective renewable natural and human energy to create the net zero future that is required of us. There is much to do and everything to gain from seizing the initiative to make positive change.”