The Switch Is On

August 3, 2001

By Michael Jessen

Gabor Kelemen is energized by 'green' power.

While U.S. President George W. Bush pushes for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien promotes more development of Alberta's oil sands, Kelemen quietly advocates RETs -- renewable energy technologies.

Our planet's seemingly insatiable desire for energy won't be satisfied with more non-renewable fossil fuel projects, says Kelemen, a Nelson entrepreneur who started Sustainable Energy Development Technologies to promote energy innovations. Earth's green energy future lies in the power of the wind, the sun, and the water.

"Business analysts say this is the growing thing," says Kelemen.

A glance at energy sector growth rates proves Kelemen is right. The average annual growth of wind energy during the 1990s was 24% and it is now a $4 billion industry. Solar photovoltaic grew by 17.3% annually. Geothermal and hydroelectric grew by more modest rates of 4.3% and 1.8% respectively, but still outpaced growth in non-renewable energy sources like natural gas (1.6%) and oil (1.2%).

And if the growth of Kelemen's business is any indication, the Kootenays are starving for alternative energy. SED Technologies started in a back room at the corner of Josephine and Victoria Streets in January. It now employs five people, has a board of directors and more than 30 projects on the go, including micro hydro, solar, biomass and heat recovery.

In his spacious new office (lit mainly by two skylights), Kelemen talks about becoming a green power producer. "We're looking at a piece of land right now where we can generate power using micro hydro, wind, solar, and perhaps even geothermal."

An alternative energy catalogue is planned. "We're trying to get it out real soon," says Kelemen. An alternative energy store is also a possibility. "People like the element of being able to touch and see," he adds.

Kelemen has been accepted as a qualified energy developer and will be attending a Natural Resources Canada renewable energy project assessment training course this month. He is enthusiastic about working with RETScreen International, an integrated renewable energy project analysis software that can be used to evaluate the energy production, life-cycle costs and greenhouse gas emission reductions for various types of renewable energy technologies.

Drilling for oil in the ANWR will imperil the calving grounds of the 129,000-strong Porcupine caribou herd and may only satisfy the U.S. oil appetite for six months, say some energy experts. The two oil sands plants already in production -- Suncor and Syncrude -- are now the fourth largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Canada. Developing more projects that add tonnes of CO2 to the problem of global warming will surely give the country a black eye internationally.

Meanwhile, alternate energy like solar photovoltaic is becoming more mainstream. The Canadian Coast Guard deploys about 5,000 solar-powered units in navigational buoys and lighthouses. The blinking dot signs warning of lane closures at Nelson's orange bridge are solar-powered.

Kelemen predicts that more and more money will be invested in energy efficiency and RETs.

"If we keep wasting, we're going to be wasted," he says.

Driven by federal government initiatives to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and install alternatives to oil in the country's remote communities, Kelemen sees a bright future for green power.

"The people like it, I like it, the world needs it, and if we get it, we might just survive," he concludes.

ONE SMALL STEP - If you want to save money on your electrical energy bill, remember it is ALWAYS cheaper not to use the power in the first place. Kelemen suggests the best place to start is to purchase a case of compact fluorescent light bulbs and replace the units in your home or business with these modern, economical fixtures. Then convince your neighbor to do the same. This is generally the simplest, most cost-effective upgrade that you can do.

RESOURCES - SED Technologies is located at 201 - 602 Josephine Street in Nelson, phone 352-3903. They will soon be online at You can reach Gabor Kelemen by e-mail at His company works closely with Energy Alternatives of Victoria at Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency web site is at and offers a wealth of information for homeowners and businesses to save money on energy bills. To learn more about RETScreen International go to The May/June issue of Canadian Geographic -- their sixth annual environment issue -- is devoted to energy. Some of the issue is available online at Don't forget to consult your local electrical utility for information on energy conservation subsidy programs. Before you build a new building or retrofit an old one, visit the web site of Ledalite Architectural Products Inc. at "The answer to the energy problem isn't more production and pollution, it's to use what energy we have more efficiently," says Ledalite president Peter Murphy. "If every office building in San Francisco used our technology it would reduce California's power demands by seven percent and this would be sufficient to alleviate the crisis," he adds in an interview published in the August 2, 2001 issue of the Vancouver Sun.

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