Posted in Healthy (& Tasty!) Eating

The Cider Cellar

Cellar Full of Cider

Once upon a time, I built a wine cellar. In order to make decent wine from the grape vines in my back yard, I was advised to practice on other fruit. I practiced on apples. Now my wine cellar’s really a cider cellar. Perhaps cider/charcuterie cellar would be most appropriate. If I call it a wine cellar, it’s only because I’m lying or getting old and am forgetting what is in fact stashed down there. It’s cider. Apple ciders of various blends/batches. Pear ciders of various blends/batches. A couple types of Pommeau [an apple and apple brandy desert wine]. And if you look hard through the bins, you will find some actual grape-based wine. If you were to turn around from this view of the west wall of bins, you’d see kegs. Full of bubbly cider. Awaiting an epic party. Above them hangs odds and sods of dry cured meats. Refreshing that meat stash is on my to-do list.

Edmonton is an apple [and pear] city, and we just haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe I’m reading too much into things or it’s just the circles I spin in, but cider seems to be slowly creeping into our psyche. Maybe it’s just me. I’m starting to think ‘coq au cidre’ instead of ‘coq au vin’. Starting to pair every pork dish with some kind of apple booze. Give me cheese, I now think ‘pear cider’ instead of ‘pinot gris’ [which I still love, btw]. Is part of it frugality? Partly, especially indirectly in that it’s so abundant that dumping a litre into a braise doesn’t phase me, whereas dumping a $20 bottle into the dish does. As a result it creeps into your daily life. But there is also a dominant thread of simple beauty around the harnessing of what ‘where we live’ offers. I don’t think that bit will ever get old.

Cellar full of Cider

Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

So, what’s all the fuss about ‘smart’ meters?

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Do you wonder why ‘smart’ electricity meters are called ‘smart’? Do you wonder what is going on with smart meters in BC?

Smart (or advanced) meters are the latest in exciting high-tech electronics. In the last three or four years, utilities across North America have suddenly started installing millions of them.

In 2011, BC Hydro began installing the meters for all its customers. In July 2012, FortisBC’s electricity utility in south central BC asked the Utilities Commission for permission to do the same in its service territory.

Supporters say smart meters will greatly improve the efficiency and capabilities of the electricity grid, while saving money and enhancing consumer service. Detractors complain of the high cost (up to $500 per meter), the uncertain benefits, and the alleged radiation hazards to people, animals and even plants.

Here’s BCSEA’s view of the pros and cons of smart meters:


Theft reduction:

Smart meters will deter electricity theft, mainly by illegal marijuana grow-ops, through better detection of unmetered electricity losses.

Reduced site calls:

Remote meter reading over radio frequencies will greatly reduce manual meter reading by people driving vehicles. This will reduce costs, vehicle miles and modestly reduce air emissions. The remote connection and disconnection of electricity service will also reduce site visits by service people.

System optimization:

Utilities should be able to save energy by matching more closely the amount of power they put into the grid with customersí needs.

Improved information on energy use to customers:

If customers choose, smart meters will be able to offer almost real-time information on customers’ energy use through in-home devices: software that can speak to the smart meters and potentially even control appliances such as fridges and washing machines.

Time-of-use rates:

Utilities will be able to offer time-of-use rates to customers to encourage energy conservation and shift demand away from peak times, when electricity costs the most.

Electric vehicle service enhancement:

Smart meters could potentially enhance charging services for electric vehicles by allowing secure, individualized electronic billing at charging stations.

Reduced electricity bills:

Cost reductions enabled by smart meters should put downward pressure on customersí electricity bills.


High up-front costs and ratepayer risk:

The up-front installation cost for 1.8 million meters in BC Hydro’s service area is $930 million, or $500 per customer. FortisBC wants to install 130,000 meters with an up-front cost of $51 million, or $400 per customer. If the cost is not balanced by the savings, the smart meter capital costs could add 2 to 3 percent to electricity bills.

Fortis estimates it will save $105 million over twenty years though theft reduction, about half of the total estimated cost benefit from its advanced meters. BC Hydro also expects theft reduction to account for just under half of its total cost savings. But these estimated savings rely on un-proven assumptions about the number of grow-ops and how they will respond to anti-theft measures. There is no established track record from other places to confirm the estimated savings.

Claimed radiation hazard:

Some customers worry about harm to their health from the radiation from smart meters. The meters emit at the frequency of radio waves when they communicate with the utility’s head office, or (if enabled by the customer) when they communicate with in-home devices that display a customer’s electricity use.

BCSEA is actively reviewing the evidence on smart meters in the Utilities Commissionís review of Fortisís advanced metering application. We support a full and thorough review, including of any health hazard to humans or others. Our minds are open in the issue, but so far we have seen nothing to concern us.

Do you wonder why Fortis needs Utilities Commission approval for advanced meters, but BC Hydro does not?

Normally a utility must apply to the Utilities Commission to make a large capital expenditure. The Commission then orders a proceeding at which ratepayers and the groups that represent them may scrutinize the proposal and raise any concerns.

But the government short-circuited this process in 2010 through the Clean Energy Act, which ordered BC Hydro to implement smart meters and barred the Utilities Commission from reviewing the plan.

Quite likely BC Hydro’s status as a government-owned corporation encouraged the government to accord Hydro this special treatment. FortisBC, as a private corporation, received no order to implement smart meters, and so its current application is subject to review by the Utilities Commission.

BCSEA supports an empowered Utilities Commission and opposes special exemptions to let BC Hydro or any public utility make major expenditures without public scrutiny. 

BCSEA is intervening in the review of Fortis’s advanced metering application to ensure that the meters are cost effective, and to ensure that Fortis pursues to the maximum any opportunities to conserve energy. We want to be sure that the meters are thoroughly assessed, so that the public can be assured that their concerns on all points will be considered when the Commission makes its final decision.

Keep posted through the BCSEA website for news on Fortis’s advanced metering application, as it proceeds through the spring of 2013.

Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

We’ve moved

We're now 'at' The HiVE Vancouver

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For the last several years, BCSEA has had an office at Energy Alternatives in Victoria. We’re grateful to EA’s owner and BCSEA Founding member Kevin Pegg for a very generous rental rate, network access, space in his server room and lots of technical help over the years. 

THe HiVE working shotWith Nigel and the rest of the staff happy to work from home, we no longer need an office, so we’ve decided to rent a ‘virtual’ office space at The HiVE Vancouver. Our mail will be received and forwarded there, and our new phone number will ‘ring’ on their computer. 

This is better suited to our current organisation, will reduce our overhead costs even more, and save some electricity and commuting time too. 

We’ll now receive paper Canada Post mail at a postal box in Victoria. 

Here’s the new coordinates: 

Office address: 
128 West Hastings St, Suite 210
Vancouver BC  V6B 1G8  
604 332 0025 
Mailing address: 
PO Box 44104 Gorge Plaza
2947 Tillicum Rd
Victoria BC V9A 7K1

e-mail contact continues to be

We’ve set up a Canada Post forward for a year, and our old phone number will ring through to the new one for a while, so we hope to not lose any communications. 

We’ve also moved our websites and e-mail to ‘the cloud’ so we will be shutting down the old servers and saving power soon. 

Blackfly Solutions Our Drupal and CiviCRM systems are hosted by Blackfly Solutions on servers at Rackforce Networks in Kelowna, BC.


Rackforce LogoRead about Rackforce’s Green I. T. efforts.


Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

Global Power Shift, June 2013

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 On June 10-17th 2013, young leaders will converge in Istanbul, Turkey for a landmark gathering. 500 grassroots climate activists and leaders from around the world will meet, train, share skills and stories, and prepare for the next phase of the global climate movement.

After leaving Turkey, they will fan out across the world to catalyze powerful national movements calling for bold climate action. Through a series of national summits and trainings, they will unleash a new wave of climate activism.

Are you a young climate leader? Do you want to attend? There’s an application process, and a deadline on January 4th, 2013.

Candidates will be selected based on their previous work for the climate movement, and/or their future plans, as well as experience in online and offline campaigning, communication, fundraising, mobilizing, networking, and movement building. Willingness and capacity to organize national or regional events in your home country will be a massive plus! Thereís a lower age limit of 18, but no strict upper limit. 

"Climate change is the single biggest thing humans have done to this planet. The one thing that needs to be bigger is our movement to stop it." – Bill McKibben, founder.

For all the details, click here: 

Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

Can You Help the BCSEA?

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We’re a small organization with a big heart and even bigger ambitions, and we value your help.

Q: What is your driving concern as an organization?

A: The storm clouds of global climate change, which will wreak havoc on our world if we don’t accelerate the proven sustainable solutions for transport, buildings, electricity, forestry and farming fast enough.

Q: What are you doing on the ground here in BC, to make a difference?

A: A lot…

  • We have reached over 54,000 schoolchildren with our Climate Change Showdown;
  • we are working with the City of Vancouver to enable the retrofitting of 15 condominiums;
  • we have pioneered the SolarBC program;
  • we are very engaged with policy-makers, helping to develop the best sustainable energy policies;
  • we are working with other BC NGOs in a network called Organizing for Change, to develop a new campaign on LNG – liquefied natural gas;
  • we are very active at the BC Utilities Commission, always arguing for more energy conservation, fair pricing, and more use of renewable energy;
  • we provide a free monthly webinar program on climate and energy solutions;
  • our members meet in Chapters in Victoria, Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna, where they become engaged in a variety of projects;
  • we mobilize our members to make a difference whenever we can, such as working to save LiveSmart BC’s Energy Incentives Program. 

Q: What are your plans for 2013?

A: We are not short of big dreams. There’s an election coming up, which is a critical time for climate change and sustainable energy solutions to be getting prominent attention. We want to build far greater public awareness of the danger that the proposed new natural gas strategy poses to the global climate and to BC’s climate goals; we want people to see the full vision of how BC can flourish in a sustainable energy future. There are huge opportunities for us to do more in the realms of sustainable transportation and buildings. 

Q: What do you need to help you do more?

A: We need three things:

1. We need more members (if you are not yet a member, will you join? The link is here –

2. We need more volunteers to help in our Chapters (if you’re able to help, email

3. We depend on support from our members and donors to pursue our work. Can you help? To make a donation, click here


Posted in Healthy (& Tasty!) Eating

Hoisin-Ginger Meatloaf

Hoisin-Ginger Meatloaf Recipe
Scallions, hoisin sauce and ginger give this pork-and-turkey meatloaf great flavor and plenty of vegetables boost the fiber and nutrients. We love the texture of brown rice as a filler in this healthy Asian-flavored meatloaf recipe, but feel free to swap fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs for the rice.