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Vancouver — The B.C. government missed the opportunity of the Western Renewable Energy Zones (WREZ) initiative, a joint U.S.-Canada energy planning process. That's the assessment of a number of B.C.'s leading environmental organizations. Due to poor analysis within B.C., environmental groups have no confidence that the "Qualified Resource Areas" identified by WREZ are the best places in which to develop the province's green energy. WREZ released its Phase I report at a meeting of the Western Governors' Association in Park City, Utah on Monday.

"Going into this energy planning process, we already knew that B.C. has excellent potential for renewables," says Nicholas Heap, Climate and Energy Policy Analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation. "What the WREZ process promised — and what B.C. failed to do — was identify areas in B.C. that combine both high energy potential and relatively low environmental sensitivity. When we avoid environmentally sensitive lands right off the bat, we can develop more renewable energy, faster, with greater public support and reduced risk to public finances and our sensitive ecosystems," notes Mr. Heap.

Unfortunately, the work done in B.C. failed to follow the WREZ process. It excluded much of the province?s energy resources from consideration at the outset and favoured existing Independent Power Producer (IPP) proposals. This weakness was compounded by neglecting to screen out lands already identified by the province as environmentally sensitive.

"Among other gaps, we understand B.C. government staff intended that wilderness protection areas in the province's Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMP) would be excluded from the WREZ Qualified Resource Areas, but they weren't given enough resources to get the job done. Leaving out years of community input and environmental rigor is not the smart approach to energy planning we need in B.C.," states Marlene Cummings, B.C. Forest Campaigner for ForestEthics. "How can we make the best decisions for transitioning B.C. to a green energy future if we start by ignoring a huge part of our renewable energy resources, and then promote development in areas that we already know are a bad idea?" asks Ric Careless, Executive Director of B.C. Spaces for Nature.

"The WREZ outputs are meant to be important inputs to the BC Utilities Commission's current inquiry into B.C.'s 30-year transmission needs. This quasi-judicial process will set the framework to develop B.C.'s energy resources and electricity grid," said Tom Hackney, Vice-President for Policy of the BC Sustainable Energy Association. "If the BCUC cannot obtain better information than the current WREZ results, the quality of the Commission?s outcomes will be compromised."

"It's critical that we get this analysis right in B.C. The BCUC process requires that we get it done this summer in order to find out where B.C.'s high-energy, low-impact resources are actually located. Our province's future as a truly green energy producer depends on it," concludes Nicholas Heap.

For further information:

Nicholas Heap, David Suzuki Foundation, nheap@davidsuzuki.org

Marlene Cummings, ForestEthics, marlene@forestethics.org

Ric Careless, B.C. Spaces for Nature, bcspaces@spacesfornature.org

Tom Hackney, BC Sustainable Energy Association, thackney@shaw.ca

June 17, 2009