B.C. power producers press their case

Independent power producers, a climate scientist and an advocate for aboriginal development urged the B.C. government Wednesday to stick with B.C.'s plan to become self-sufficient in clean energy.

UVic climate scientist Andrew Weaver says B.C. is at risk of losing its leadership in greenhouse gas emission reduction

VICTORIA – Independent power producers, a climate scientist and an advocate for aboriginal development urged the B.C. government Wednesday to stick with B.C.’s plan to become self-sufficient in clean energy.

B.C.’s goal of eliminating power imports by 2016 was questioned by a panel of senior officials who reviewed BC Hydro operations this summer and recommended ways to slow rate increases. Power producers say this short-term cost cutting would push BC Hydro to import more electricity at spot market rates that BC Hydro itself is predicting to soar in the years to come. And they argue that the review panel used an “all-in estimated cost” for independent power that includes power line extensions and the cost of converting intermittent power to firm, long-term supply.

In an “apples to apples” comparison, independent producers match or beat the price of new power sources developed by BC Hydro, said Paul Kariya, executive director of the Clean Energy Association of B.C.

Judith Sayers, former chief the the Hupacasath First Nation on Vancouver Island, said small run-of-river development helped her community to learn business as well as gain a steady income and a clean electricity source. There are 125 B.C. aboriginal communities involved with clean energy projects, she said.

“It’s important to First Nations because we need to get involved in development that’s consistent with our values,” Sayers said.

Andrew Weaver, Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling at the University of Victoria, said the province is risking its leadership role in clean energy. It should be looking beyond self-sufficiency to what is really needed to meet the province’s goal of a one-third reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, which means innovations like widespread use of electric cars, he said.

BC Hydro uses a series of drought years from the 1940s as its “critical water” benchmark for self-sufficiency, but that measure is losing accuracy because of greenhouse gas accumulation, he said.

“What we expect to see is an increased likelihood of overall water, but it’s coming in the winter, in increasingly extreme events, with an increased likelihood of drought in the summer,” Weaver said.

Graham Horn, vice-president of Innergex Renewable Energy, said his company is considering making B.C. the base for its North and South American clean energy operations, based on its progressive policies.

Montreal-based Innergex operates the Ashlu Creek and Fitzsimmons Creek run-of-river projects near Whistler, and recently completed a group of projects at the north end of Harrison Lake.

NDP energy critic John Horgan said BC Hydro should not be paying to connect independent power projects to the grid, unless it is to help a remote community get off diesel generators. And it shouldn’t use its large dam capacity to shape intermittent power so private companies can benefit.

“A public utility is not supposed to improve the bottom line for shareholders, and that’s the fundamental flaw in the IPP policies of the B.C. Liberals,” Horgan said.

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