At first it seems odd that a BC Hydro executive would live off the grid, snubbing his own product – but in Bruce Sampson, the triple bottom lineman's case, his Vancouver Island home is solar powered and the optics work to his advantage.
At first it seems odd that a BC Hydro executive would live off the grid, snubbing his own product – but in Bruce Sampson’s case, his Vancouver Island home is solar powered and the optics work to his advantage. He is the VP of sustainability, a trendy title that sounds much better than VP of strategic planning, which was on his business card eight years ago when he first joined Hydro. His job is to ensure that BC Hydro stays in the ‘black’ while behaving ‘green’. A mammoth challenge given not only the size of the $4-billion B.C. utility, but also the fact that he has to juggle triple-bottom-line goals. B.C. is a province blessed with kinetic energy (all those dam-able lakes and streams), yet cursed with a rapidly growing and increasingly plugged-in population that doesn’t want to mess with wilderness. The 50-year-old big picture guy hopes the company’s recently published 20-year goals will keep Hydro on a path of low-cost reliable power for generations to come. He helped write the 15 “bold and aggressive” goals – and they do seem gutsy (No. 11: No net incremental environmental impact by 2025). Sampson says success will be achieved through innovation and education, so expect a lot more Power Smart initiatives. He credits former CEO Larry Bell for fostering the juice-pinching program and says it has motivated British Columbians to save 2,500 gigawatt hours per year between 1990 and 2000. “That’s enough electricity to power all of Prince George and Victoria combined,” says the VP. “Over the next decade, we’re counting on Power Smart to offset an additional 3,500 GWH, or more than one-third of the demand for new energy.” For residential consumers, Sampson says that means offering more compact fluorescent light bulbs and fridge buy-back programs. For commercial users, energy audits can help identify where they’re using energy so they can find ways to cut it. And for the power company itself, Sampson speaks of a cradle-to-cradle approach to minimize waste. “When our distribution poles get old, we take them to our pole yard where there is a sawmill that cuts them to make cedar furniture. We have also purchased nine gas-electric hybrid Toyotas for our sedan fleet and we intend to add bio-diesel to our truck fleet next year.” As for Sampson’s personal one-tonne challenge, he learned his low-wattage lifestyle as a sailor. At one point he sailed with his family around the South Pacific on a two-year sabbatical from director of the debt management branch in Victoria’s Ministry of Finance. Today he scrutinizes his home in Maple Bay looking for further ways to conserve. “There is this winter stream on my property that I wouldn’t mind taking micro-hydro.”