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Five B.C. firms to supply Olympic carbon credits

The 2010 Winter Games will have generated an estimated 118,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by the time the gas-fired Olympic flame leaves Vancouver, and Olympic organizers have selected five British Columbia firms to offset those emissions through new carbon-reducing energy projects to be completed over the next three years.

"We could have gone out into the market and bought carbon offsets," James Tansey told The Tyee. "What we chose to do instead is to take this opportunity to show the world what great technologies B.C. has."

Tansey is CEO of Offsetters, a Vancouver firm that is the official supplier of carbon credits to VANOC. Offsetters is responsible for supplying an estimated 118,000 tons of credits. At the going rate of around $25 per tonne, those credits are worth roughly $3 million.

The five firms selected by VANOC include several established players in the B.C. energy sector: fuel-cell maker Ballard Power Systems, compressed natural gas equipment maker IMW, wood-based biofuel refiner Lignol, biomass gasification provider Nexterra, and hybrid heating system maker Sempa Power.

Neither Offsetters nor the firms involved would identify precisely which projects will produce what carbon savings during a press conference Monday afternoon at the BC International Media Centre in Vancouver.

“We’ve got nine specific projects were talking about, and we’ve got other projects in the pipeline,” Tansey said. “So we’ve got tens of thousands of tonnes already in the validation and verification process.”

Likewise, neither VANOC nor Offsetters would discuss how much money these well-connected B.C. firms stand to receive from the taxpayer-supported Olympic organizing committee.

Linda Coady, who is VANOC’s vice president for sustainability, promised that all such specifics will be revealed in an audited report to be relased at some future date.

“A lot of the sponsorships are based on providing value in kind,” Coady told The Tyee. “Every sponsor is betting that using the games spotlight will create higher profile for their product.”

Coady said VANOC has reduced its carbon output significantly compared to previous Winter Games. Vancouver’s estimate of 118,000 tonnes includes all carbon emitted during seven years of operations that include the torch relay. That compares to Torino, which produced between 150,000 and 200,000 tonnes during 17 days of operation, and Salt Lake City, which reported 238,000 tonnes of emissions during 17 days.

Those figures do not include the carbon generated by an estimated quarter-million visitors flying to attend the games. Coady estimated those emissions at another 150,000 tonnes. Offsetters is working with other, non-Canadian vendors to provide carbon credits for individuals and companies seeking to offset their travel to and from Vancouver.

VANOC also claims that the athlete’s villages in Vancouver and Whistler represent the largest number of buildings in North America ever to apply for LEED certification, and will reduce carbon emissions by 15 percent relative to comparable facilities built in the Pacific Northwest.

Both Coady and Tansey described the 2010 Winter Games as "the most sustainable games in Olympic history."

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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