Proposed New BCUC Rules for Electricity Supply Contracts

Today, the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) released proposed new Rules for Electricity Energy Supply Contracts, which will affect all future electricity supply contracts (or electricity purchase agreements) to a public utility in British Columbia, unless otherwise exempted by law, regulation or order.

These new Rules will update the 1993 Rules on account of changes to the BC Utilities Commission Act and the Clean Energy Act.

The BCUC is seeking public comments on the new Rules, up to August 26, 2011.

BC Hydro's Bioenergy Phase 2 Call

From my new colleague, Jenny Kirkpatrick

On May 31, 2010, BC Hydro issued a Request for Proposals in relation to the long term supply of clean or renewable biomass energy generated by new projects in British Columbia (the “Bioenergy Phase 2 Call”).  Those intending to submit a Proposal must first register with BC Hydro and the registration deadline is fast approaching - July 15, 2010 at 4pm.

With the recent announcement of the Clean Energy Act coming into force, it is worth noting that there is a direct effect on the Bioenergy Phase 2 Call insofar as the Utilities Commission Act  ("UCA") is concerned. It is anticipated that BC Hydro will post an Addendum and/or Notice(s) to the RFP website to address modifications to the RFP process required to accommodate all impacts of the Clean Energy Act, including exemptions from certain procedural requirements to which energy supply contracts in British Columbia are normally subject.

Specifically, section 7(1)(e) of the Clean Energy Act exempts, “a bio-energy phase 2 call to acquire up to 1,000 gigawatt hours per year of electricity” from sections 45 to 47 and 71 of the UCA. Those provisions essentially relate to the British Columbia Utilities Commission’s (“BCUC”) approval process for public utility plants or systems, or Section 71 Hearings (as they are known).  Pursuant to section 71 of the UCA, all energy supply contracts are subject to the scrutiny of the BCUC, which determines whether the subject energy supply contract is in the public interest. By being exempt from BCUC’s regulatory process, those intending to submit a proposal in response to the Bioenergy Phase 2 Call will not be burdened with having to file an energy supply contract, in this case the electricity purchase agreement, with the BCUC, nor required to participate in a public hearing convened by the BCUC. In addition, the Bioenergy Phase 2 Call is exempt from the requirement to obtain a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” prior to the construction, operation or extension of a public utility plant or system, as provided for in s. 45 of the UCA. Lastly, the procedural requirements set out in s. 46 and the provisions relating to cease work orders set out in s. 47 of the UCA, do not apply to the Bioenergy Phase 2 Call. As a result, proponents will not have to incur the (often significant) costs associated with meeting these procedural requirements.  Regulatory barriers aside, all of the proponents will have to comply with the RFP's procedural requirements.

Exempting the Bioenergy Phase 2 Call from sections 45 to 47 and 71 of the UCA will likely result in the development of clean energy projects in a more expeditious manner, which in turn will help the B.C. Government meet its objectives as set out in the Clean Energy Act. 

BC Clean Energy Act Becomes Law

On June 3, 2010, the Clean Energy Act (the “CEA”) received Royal Assent in the BC Legislature. The Province of British Columbia now has a dedicated piece of renewable energy legislation, rather than a set of well intentioned plans and policies.

The CEA is a progressive law and the product of the government's long standing commitment to clean energy and reducing greenhouse gases. In essence, the CEA puts into law, key objectives of the government's two Energy Plans (from 2002 and 2007) and its 2008 Climate Action Plan. The CEA lays the foundation for the renewable energy industry to be the economic driver in the Province for years to come.

The CEA also came to be, in part through the efforts of the Green Energy Advisory Task Force, of which I was privileged to be a member. The comprehensive Task Force report can be found here. It's a must read for any one interested in British Columbia energy policy.

The CEA is truly a made in BC piece of legislation, touching on many of the fundamental socio-economic and environmental issues in British Columbia today, like job creation, economic development in first nations and rural communities, greenhouse gas reduction, energy efficiency and clean energy project development. While the CEA codifies existing policy and introduces some new concepts into law, much of it at this stage is enabling legislation. The nuts and bolts of the CEA will be filled in by regulation over time.

Below is a summary of what we think are the key parts of the CEA:

  • The Province is to achieve electricity self-sufficiency by 2016, plus 3,000 GWh of insurance by 2020
  • The demand-side management target is raised to an aggressive 66%
  • It sets a clean and renewable energy target (an RPS if you will) of 93% (the highest standard anywhere in North America)
  • The Province is to become a net exporter of electricity from clean and renewable resources, with BC Hydro being the aggregator and with matters regarding exports being exempt from BCUC regulation (this is a particularly notable and significant part of the law)
  • Certain major electricity projects are also exempted from BCUC regulation
  • BC Hydro is to deliver comprehensive Integrated Resource Plans (replacing the LTAP's) to Cabinet, every 5 years
  • BC Hydro is made stronger by its merger and re-integration with BC Transmission Corp.
  • No clean energy projects are permitted in parks or conservancies
  • Environmental cumulative impacts of clean energy projects are to be taken into consideration in the Environmental Assessment Act
  • There is a feed-in-tariff, but only for emerging technologies (ie, ocean and others to be prescribed)
  • Smart meters are to be added by 2012
  • Creates a First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund (with details to be prescribed by regulation)
  • Mandates reductions of BC's greenhouse gases for prescribed periods to 2050
  • Standing Offer Program to be revamped (ie, prices, size and included technologies)

As you can see, the CEA is a complex piece of legislation, one which endeavours to shape the future of British Columbia. We applaud the government for passing this forward-looking and game changing law. Over the coming weeks, our goal with this blog is to provide some deeper insight into what the CEA means to the various stakeholders in the Province. So please continue reading our blog.

In the meantime, here is the link to the Government's website on the CEA which contains some good information in the backgrounders. In addition, there is a new website dedicated to BC's clean energy, called Power of BC. It's also a good resource. As you can see, the government seems to be more committed than ever to clean energy, which, in our view is a great step forward.

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British Columbia Introduces Clean Energy Act

Today, the British Columbia government introduced the much anticipated Clean Energy Act into the BC Legislature.

Here is a copy of the first reading of the Act (Bill 17) and here is the government's press release on the annoucement.

Finally, it is worth to check out the government's website for the Clean Energy Act which contains some good background information on the Province's new clean energy plan.

More analysis to come....still need to digest all of this.

It was also great to see the government release a report on the Green Energy Advisory Task Force. It was a pleasure to be a part of this group and happy to see many of the Task Force recommendations now forming part of the new Clean Energy Act. Here is a copy of the full Green Energy Advisory Task Force report.

BC Hydro Makes Additional Awards Under Clean Power Call

Today, BC Hydro added an additional 451 GWh/year of firm energy from four new renewable energy projects awarded EPA's under BC Hydro's Clean Power Call. Here is the press release.

The selected projects are:

These projects bring the amount of energy awarded under the Clean Power Call to 2,901 GWh/year.

BC Hydro advises that 8 projects remain under consideration.  Of note, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources hinted at upcoming future power calls in his statement in the BC Hydro press release.

Prices under the electricity purchase agreements have not been disclosed. However, a range of prices will be made available in BC Hydro's filings with the British Columbia Utilities Commission under Section 71 of the Utilities Commission Act.

Congratulations to all of the successful companies.

BC Hydro Selects 19 Projects in First Stage of Clean Power Call

470 days after it received proposals from 43 proponents for 68 clean energy projects, BC Hydro announced today the results of its 2008 Clean Power Call.

In the first stage of awards, BC Hydro selected 19 projects for electricity purchase agreements (EPA's) comprising 2,450 GWh/year being less than half of the 5,000 GWh/year acquisition target it had requested from developers in the 2008 Clean Power Call. Length of the contracts and financial terms were not disclosed.

Of the 19 projects selected for EPA today, run-of-river and wind projects almost evenly split the generation capacity awarded. This is noteworthy because currently in BC there is only one operating wind park, while there are over 35 run-of-river projects generating to the BC grid. Perhaps BC Hydro may be seeking more wind energy as quality run-of-river projects become more difficult to find.

Here are more details from today's announcement:

14 hydro-electric (run-of-river) projects were selected and will provide BC Hydro with 1,203 GWh of firm electricity per year.  The successful run-of-river developers, projects and respective project capacity are as follows:  

Five wind energy projects were selected and will provide BC Hydro with 1,247 GWh of firm electricity per year.  The successful wind developers, projects and respective project capacity are as follows:
Congratulations to all the developers, whose patience has finally been rewarded.
 
The bulk of the work has only now begun. Immediate next steps for the above developers are hearings before the British Columbia Utilities Commission pursuant to Section 71 of the Utlities Commission Act and raising capital to help finance construction of these projects.
 
Those developers with projects still remaining in the Clean Power Call who were not awarded EPA's today (there are 28) will take comfort in BC Hydro's statement that it expects to select additional projects for EPA awards in late March.
 
Given that only half of the expected capacity of the Clean Power Call has been filled by today's 19 EPA awards, there is certainly more to come on this good news story for the BC renewable energy sector.
 
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BC's 2010 Throne Speech - Untapping BC's Clean Energy Potential

Today, the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia delivered the Speech from the Throne (click to read), which opened the Second Session of the 39th Parliament of British Columbia.  

The 2010 Olympics and the economy were principal topics of course, but the BC government's commitment to revamping the Province's clean energy industry also featured prominently. Below are some of the highlights from the Speech relevant to the clean energy sector:

  • The BC government will take a fresh look at B.C.'s regulatory regimes, including the BC Utilities Commission.
  • BC can harness [BC's untapped energy] potential to generate new wealth and new jobs in its communities while it lower greenhouse gas emissions within and beyond our borders.
  • Clean energy is a cornerstone of BC's Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one‑third by 2020.
  • Building on the contributions of the Green Energy Advisory Task Force, the BC government will launch a comprehensive strategy to put BC at the forefront of clean energy development.
  • BC has enormous potential in bioenergy, run‑of‑river, wind, geothermal, tidal, wave and solar energy. We will put it to work for our economy.
  • The BC government will introduce a new Clean Energy Act to encourage new investments in independent power production while also strengthening BC Hydro.
    • It will provide for fair, predictable, clean power calls.
    • It will feature simplified procurement protocols and new measures to encourage investment and the jobs that flow with it.
  • New investment partnerships in infrastructure that encourage and enable clean modes of transportation, such as electric vehicles, hydrogen‑powered vehicles and vehicles powered by compressed natural gas and liquid natural gas, will be pursued.
  • The BC government will support new jobs and private sector investment in wood pellet plants, cellulosic ethanol production, biomass gasification technologies and fuel cell technologies.
  • Bioenergy creates new uses for waste wood and beetle‑killed forests and new jobs for forest workers.
  • A new receiving license will give bioenergy producers new certainty of fiber supply, while a new stand‑as‑a‑whole pricing system will encourage utilization of logging residues and low‑grade material that was previously burned or left on the forest floor.
  • The BC government will optimize existing generation facilities and report on the Site C review this spring.
    • It will develop and capture B.C.'s unique capability to firm and shape the intermittent power supply that characterizes new sources of clean energy to deliver reliable, competitively‑priced, clean power — where and when it is needed most.
  • New conservation measures, smart meters and in‑home displays will help maximize energy savings. New smart grid investments and net metering will provide more choices and opportunities for reduced energy costs and more productive use of electricity.
  • New transmission investments will open up the Highway 37 corridor to new mines and clean power.
  • New transmission infrastructure will link Northeastern B.C. to our integrated grid, provide clean power to the energy industry and open up new capacity for clean power exports to Alberta, Saskatchewan and south of the border.
  • We will seek major transmission upgrades with utilities in California and elsewhere.
  • If the Province act with clear vision and concerted effort now, in 2030, people will look back to this decade as we look to the 1960s today.

With significant investment in green energy being made elsewhere, both in Canada and the US,  we hope that today's Speech from the Throne demonstrates the BC government's commitment to building the Provincial economy in part with the support of the clean energy sector.

BCUC Approves BC Hydro's $825M Purchase of 1/3 of Waneta Dam

Following up on an earlier blog post, today, the British Columbia Utilities Commission approved BC Hydro's request to purchase a 1/3 interest of the Waneta Dam from Teck Metals Ltd., calling it "in the public interest". See the attached order from the BCUC.

The BCUC also determined that BC Hydro's consultations with First Nations with respect to the Waneta Transaction were adequate and upheld the honour of the Crown. The BCUC's reasons for the decision will be released at a later date.

When the transaction closes, the Waneta Dam, located in Trail, BC, will provide BC Hydro with access to 167MW of firm capacity and 890 GWh/year of energy. Adding the interest in the Waneta Dam will also help the Province meet its electricity self-sufficiency objectives.

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Update: Section 5 Transmission Inquiry Suspended

Following up on an earlier blog post, on Tuesday, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources sent a letter to the British Columbia Utilities Commission advising it that the Section 5 Transmission Inquiry has been suspended until May 31, 2010.

Here is a copy of the Minister's letter to the BCUC.

As the Minister explains in his letter, the reason for the suspension is in part due to the role of the Green Energy Advisory Task Force which is currently sitting and the Government's consideration and policy responses to the impending recommendations from the Task Force as they relate to the development of the electricity industry and thus, BC's long-term transmission and generation infrastructure needs.
 
New terms of reference for the Inquiry are expected from the Minister before May 31, 2010.
 
As a member of the Green Energy Advisory Task Force, I cannot provide any further comment on this recent development.

Update: BC's Clean Power Call - BC Hydro Narrows the Field

BC Hydro announced today that it has narrowed the field of proponents for its 2008 Clean Power Call and intends to award EPA's in December.

According to BC Hydro's press release, of the 68 proposals submitted in the response to the Call: 

  • 21 were eliminated either through proponent withdrawal, they did not meet the CPC requirements or were considered too high a risk;
  • 13 were identified as the most cost-effective and are now moving forward with direct post-proposal discussions with BC Hydro with the goal of signing electricity purchase agreements (EPA's); and
  • 34 still remain possible, provided the proposals are made more cost-effective.

Names of any of the 13 proponents or projects were not disclosed, but here is a list of the 47 projects that remain in the Call.

Of interest, here is the Vancouver Sun's story on the announcement.

As its press release indicates, BC Hydro intends to award EPA's in December and then plans to file the agreements with the BCUC in early 2010 for final approval pursuant to Section 71 of the BC Utilities Commission Act.
 
The Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources summed up these next steps and what it means to the province most appropriately:
 
Clean, renewable energy continues to be a cornerstone of B.C.'s Climate Action Plan. At the same time, the development of a clean energy sector will create jobs and new economic opportunities in B.C. 
 
The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the development of a renewable power industry will mean B.C. will have more allowances to allocate to the cap and trade system, which is good for B.C.'s economy.
BC Hydro's announcement today and the impending award of EPA's under the Clean Power Call is welcomed good news for the renewable energy sector. But more importantly, the opportunity that clean power represents is great news for the future of our Province.
 
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BC Government Direction on Burrard Thermal & Clean Power Call Update

Yesterday, the British Columbia government clarified to the BC Utilities Commission its intention to end BC Hydro's reliance on the Burrard Thermal Generating Facility for its energy needs. See the attached press release.

Here is the Order-in-Council (Special Direction No. 2).

Oct 30 Update: Here is the Vancouver Sun's story on the matter.

The announcement states that effective immediately Burrard Thermal will no longer be used for planning purposes for firm energy. It will only be used for up to 900 megawatts of emergency capacity.
 
The Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister also stated that “in providing this direction, BC Hydro will replace the firm energy supply from Burrard Thermal with clean, renewable and cost-effective energy”. [Read: Clean Power Call and future power calls]
 
The government also re-affirmed its commitment to clean and renewable energy as a cornerstone to the Province's climate action plan that will propel the green economy. Electricity self-sufficiency and clean and renewable power generation are integral components to the Province's effort to reduce its carbon footprint and fight global warming.
 
Key in all of this to the renewable energy industry is that the government's decision on Burrard Thermal will allow BC Hydro to acquire 6,000 GWh of cost-effective, clean and renewable power. This will include up to 5,000 GWh from the Clean Power Call and up to 1,000 GWh from the Phase 2 Bioenergy Call for Power.
 
This is some much needed clarity and good news from the BC government to the clean energy sector.  And just in time for next week's annual IPPBC Conference where the Premier and Minister Lekstrom are both scheduled to speak.  Based on this annoucement, there should be plenty to talk about.  I'll be there and will provide my report on Megawtt.
 
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Update: BCUC Section 5 Transmission Inquiry - On Hold

On Friday, the BCUC notified intervenors that all future scheduled workshops and regional sessions for the Section 5 Transmission Inquiry were postponed pending further notification. Here is a copy of the BCUC's notice.

Today, the Vancouver Sun reported that the temporary halt to the 7 month old transmission inquiry is believed to be based on the government's desire to properly align its interests with those of BC Hydro and BCTC on matters relating to the development and export of green power in the province and the recent rulings made by the BCUC.

The Inquiry has encountered lengthy delays for a number of reasons, including as a result of delays in the provision of key evidence, by important first nations consultation issues and more recently, by an intervenor proposal that would see a first nations advisory panel being formed.

Obviously, stay tuned, there is much more to come on this.

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Clean Power Call, Port Electrification and Ontario's First Nations Green Energy Funding

Clean Power Call Update
 
On August 24, BC Hydro provided an update to its Clean Power Call. According to the update, BC Hydro will now call on the proponents to assess the status of their consultations with First Nations to date, effectively delaying the EPA awards under the Clean Power Call. The decision to review First Nations consultation stems from the two decisions made by the BC Court of Appeal last February in the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council v. B.C. (Utilities Commission) and Kwikwetlem First Nation v. British Columbia (Utilities Commission). Additional information on this new requirement will be posted on BC Hydro's Clean Power Call website as it becomes available. Also in the update, BC Hydro "anticipates that any EPA awards will occur in the Fall of 2009", which is a welcomed hint of certainty to the renewable energy industry and the billions of investment dollars waiting for the results of the Clean Power Call.
 
Port of Vancouver Goes Electric
 
It was announced this week that the Port of Vancouver is now able to provide direct electricity hook-ups to cruise ships, making it only one of three ports in the world (Juneau and Seattle) with such capability. Now when a cruise ship docks in the Port of Vancouver, instead of running the diesel engines for power, it be able to plug into the BC electricity grid, which is supplied for the most part by renewable energy. This is great news in the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (it will reduce GHG emissions by 39,000 tons annually) and certainly a boost to the renewable energy industry in the Province. It is also another step towards making Vancouver one of the world's greenest cities. Kudos to the partnership between the federal and provincial governments, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, BC Hydro and the Port of Vancouver.
 
Ontario's New First Nations and Renewable Energy Programs
 
The Ontario Government announced today that is launching two new programs for First Nations and Metis communities interested in developing and owning renewable energy facilities, such as wind, solar and hydroelectric projects. Under the $250 million Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program, Aboriginal communities will be eligible for loan guarantees from the Ontario Government to assist with equity participation in renewable energy generation and transmission projects. The Aboriginal Energy Partnerships Program is designed to build capacity and participation by providing funds for community energy plans, feasibility studies, technical research and developing business cases and create an "Aboriginal Renewable Energy Network". Ontario is showing tremendous leadership in the area of green energy these days, and these two new Aboriginal programs will certainly be welcomed by the renewable energy industry as a means to facilitate more Aboriginal participation in green energy projects, which is a good thing.

 

BC Throne Speech - A Major Boost For Green Energy

Today, the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia delivered the Speech from the Throne (click to read) to open the 2009 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 39th Parliament of the BC Legislature.

For BC's renewable energy sector which has been looking for a new commitment from the BC Government, the Throne Speech was most definitely that.

Here are the specific renewable energy highlights direct from the Speech: 

·         Green energy will be a cornerstone of British Columbia's climate action plan.

·         Electricity self-sufficiency and clean, renewable power generation will be integral to our effort to fight global warming.

·         The BC Utilities Commission will receive specific direction.

·         Phasing out Burrard Thermal is a critical component of B.C.'s greenhouse gas reduction strategy.

·         Further, this government will capitalize on the world's desire and need for clean energy, for the benefit of all British Columbians.

·         Whether it is the development of Site C, run-of-river hydro power, wind, tidal, solar, geothermal, or bioenergy and biomassBritish Columbia will take every step necessary to become a clean energy powerhouse, as indicated in the BC Energy Plan.

·         Government will use the means at its disposal to maximize our province's potential for the good of our workers, our communities, our province and the planet.

·         While these forms of power require greater investment, in the long run, they will produce exponentially higher economic returns to our province, environmental benefits to our planet and jobs throughout British Columbia.

·         High-quality, reliable, clean power is an enormous economic advantage that will benefit every British Columbian in every part of this province for generations to come.

·         Ready access to clean, affordable power has been a huge strategic incentive to industrial development in British Columbia.

·         We will build on past successes with new strategies aimed at developing new clean, renewable power as a competitive advantage to stimulate new investment, industry and employment.

·         Growing knowledge industries like database management and telecommunications will increasingly look for new places to invest and create jobs that have clean, reliable, low-carbon, low-cost power.

·         New energy producers will be looking for long-term investments leveraged through long-term power contracts that give them a competitive edge in our province.

·         B.C.'s multiple sources of clean, renewable energy are far preferable to reliance on other dirtier forms of power.

·         We will open up that power potential with new vigour, new prescribed clean power calls and new investments in transmission. New approaches to power generation, transmission and taxation policies will create new high-paying jobs for British Columbia's families.

·         A new Green Energy Advisory Task Force will shortly be appointed to complement the work of the BCUC's long-term transmission requirement review.

·         That task force will be asked to recommend a blueprint for maximizing British Columbia's clean power potential, including a principled, economically-viable and environmentally-sustainable export development policy.

·         It will review the policies, incentives and impediments currently affecting B.C.'s green power potential, and it will identify best practices employed in other leading jurisdictions.

·         We will promote biomass power solutions and convert landfill waste into clean energy that reduces harmful methane gas emissions.

·         The government has mandated methane capture from landfills to ensure we deal responsibly with our own waste and convert it to clean energy where practicable.

BC Wind Power, Waneta Dam Hearings, Haida and NaiKun and Biomass EPA's Approved

Wind Turbines Are Spinning in BC (finally!)
 
British Columbia's first wind energy facility opened earlier this month in Dawson Creek. The Bear Mountain Wind Park, which is owned by AltaGas, when completed will consist of 34 turbines and generate enough electricity to power 38,000, homes. The project has an EPA with BC Hydro under the 2006 Power Call and will receive up to $20.5 million from the the Government of Canada's ecoENERGY For Renewables Program. This marks a significant milestone on the Canadian renewable energy landscape. Now each of Canada's 10 Provinces can claim to be generating electrons to their respective electricity grids from the power of the wind. A monumental moment indeed. Those in British Columbia can purchase electricity from the Bear Mountain Wind Park, through Bullfrog Power.
 
BC Hydro's Purchase of 1/3 of Waneta Dam before BC Utilities Commission
 
This week marks the start of the public hearing stage for BC Hydro's proposed purchase of a 1/3 interest in Teck Metals Ltd.'s Waneta Dam in Trail, BC . BC Hydro is seeking an order from the BCUC under s. 44.2(1) of the BC Utilities Commission Act that the proposed for $825 million purchase is in the public interest. In its submission to the BCUC, BC Hydro characterizes the Waneta Dam as a significant hydro electric generating facility that has produced safe, reliable power for Teck for over 50 years. If the purchase completes, BC Hydro believes it would gain access to 167MW of capacity and 890 GWh/year of energy. This is an interesting proposal for BC Hydro.  In BC there are only a handful of privately owned dams, and rarely, if ever, are these dams available for purchase. So, BC Hydro buying an existing asset which can supply base load power to the grid and storage capacity, seems to follow quite well with the Province's energy self-sufficiency objectives. The hearing process which will take place over the course of the fall, will examine, among many other things, the cost to acquire the interest in the dam and aboriginal consultation and/or accommodation. This will be very interesting to follow.  Here is the link to the BCUC's webpage on the BC Hydro Waneta Transaction.
 
NaiKun and the Haida Nation sign Investment MOU
 
Last week, NaiKun Wind Energy and the Haida Nation signed a memorandum of understanding which could give the Haida nation a 30% ownership stake in NaiKun's proposed $2 billion wind power project off the coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands. NaiKun currently has a proposal into BC Hydro as part of the Clean Power Call. Kudos to NaiKun and the Haida Nation who continue to show tremendous leadership on the business relationship between first nations and independent power producers. Here's the Vancouver Sun's story on the deal.
 
EPA's for Four Bioenergy Projects Accepted By BCUC
 
Following up on my earlier blog posts (here and here) on Phase I of BC Hydro's Bioenergy Call for Power, electricity purchase agreements between BC Hydro and the four successful projects have now been accepted by the BCUC. They are: Canfor Pulp Ltd. Partnership's project in Prince George, PG Interior Waste to Energy Ltd.'s project also in Prince George, Domtar Pulp and Paper Products Inc.'s project in Kamloops, and Zellstoff Celgar Ltd. Partnership's project in Castlegar. Together, the four projects will generate a total of 579 GWh/year of electricity, or enough to power more than 52,000 homes. Here is BC Hydro's press release. Biomass energy is certainly a welcome boon to BC's forest industry. Great to see BC Hydro buying more of it. Here is the latest information on the Phase II of the Bioenergy Call.
 
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The BCUC Says What?...in its LTAP Decision

The BCUC's decision on BC Hydro's 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan released on Monday shocked the BC renewable energy industry as the BCUC rejected BC Hydro's 2008 LTAP, calling it "not in the public interest" and ordered that BC Hydro deliver a new LTAP no later than June 30, 2010. 

While the BCUC's decision spells uncertainty for the Provincial Government's 2007 Energy Plan, its related greenhouse gas reduction targets and the renewable energy industry as a whole, it is not, in my view, a death knell to BC's climate plan and the developing green energy economy. It is a set back, most definitely, but hopefully, and I fully expect it to be, a temporary one. 

Currently in this Province, there are billions of investment dollars eagerly awaiting the results of BC Hydro's clean power call - to build run-of-river, wind and biomass power projectsThe 43 proponents in the CPC bid a total of 17,000 GW/h per year of clean GHG reducing green energy projects into the Call. The Provincial Government cannot, and I expect it will not, ignore this, especially in the current economy. 

It is interesting to see the BCUC essentially remain status quo on the electricity make-up of the Province, even proposing that the capacity of BC Hydro's Burrard Thermal natural gas fired generation station be increased, putting Ol' Wheezy's social license to the test, in my view BC Hydro's Clean Power Call is not dead.  Specifically, here's what the BCUC's decision said about that: 

That notwithstanding, it is clear that BC Hydro has the scope, with or without Commission endorsement, to enter into such EPAs as it contemplated in the 2008 CPC. The Commission Panel finds that the appropriate forums within which the prudency of BC Hydro's decisions, and expenditures in that regard, if any, should be canvassed are, respectively, a section 71 proceeding and a revenue requirements proceeding, pending its next LTAP Application.

Clearly, the future of the CPC remains in the grasp of BC Hydro, and its sole shareholder, the Provincial Government. In my view, there is nothing in the BCUC's decision that would prevent BC Hydro from completing the CPC in the ordinary course, although I would expect it to pursue the lesser 3,000 GWh rather than offered 5,000 GWh, based on its arguments in the LTAP.  How it gets there, I think also depends in part on how much BC Hydro and the various CPC proponents are prepared, in the short term, to argue the merits of their respective projects at a section 71 (of the Utilities Commission Act) hearing or future revenue requirement application. A section 71 hearing before the BCUC on each EPA awarded was always part of the CPC. But now, given the BCUC's decision, the section 71 hearings would take longer and be slightly more contentious.

The way I see it, this is the opportunity to put the BC Government's green energy and climate change policies into law in this Province. In fact, given the BCUC's decision, now is the time for a comprehensive but specific renewable energy and climate change piece of legislation, such as Ontario's Green Energy Act, which would spell out in clear, the government's green energy and climate change goals. If British Columbia is truly going to be a renewable energy powerhouse, now is the time to show it. It is painfully obvious that the current blend of government policy, special directions from cabinet and spotty legislation has failed, and it must be corrected immediately with direct and comprehensive legislation. And while we're at it, let's also get the federal government on board with a national green energy law.

So where are we at now? At this stage there are too many questions which need answers from BC Hydro and most importantly, the Provincial Government. The Province simply cannot allow BC Hydro cancel the clean power call, even in light of the BCUC's decision. What is clear and hasn't changed is this: the BC Energy Plan and Special Direction No. 10 requires the Province to be electricity self-sufficient, plus 3,000 GW/h of insurance, by 2016, and the Province's climate plan mandates a reduction of GHG emitting electricity generation. Your typical large scale renewable energy project takes approximately 4-6 years to build, so to put the CPC on hold, for even short time, would put the Province's electricity self-sufficiency goals and its climate agenda in serious jeopardy. I highly doubt the Province will let that happen. Stay tuned, there is certainly more to come on this most interesting and developing story.

Here is some of the commentary on the BCUC's decision:

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The BCUC's Decision on BC Hydro's 2008 LTAP

Click here and download the BC Utilities Commission's decision on BC Hydro's 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan which was released yesterday.

Here are some additional comments on the decision.

Update: BCUC Section 5 Transmission Inquiry

Following up from our earlier blog post on the Section 5 Transmission Inquiry, after almost four months of workshops and procedural conferences, the BCUC continues to narrow the scope of the issues for the Inquiry. Stakeholder consultation is on-going and the two principal utility participants are holding workshops and inviting comments from participants on specific issues (BC Hydro on resource option potential and BCTC on its scenario development process and the export study) before September 18 when the first draft "evidence" is submitted by BC Hydro and BCTC.

Two weeks ago, after an uncomfortably long but ultimately productive oral hearing on the scope of issues for the Inquiry, the BCUC released its preliminary determinations on the scope and scale for the next steps in the long-term analysis of the transmission system. The issues addressed in the BCUC's July 10 letter on preliminary determinations focused mainly on the following issues

  • provincial generation potential
  • domestic electricity demand
  • interjurisdictional trade (import and export of electricity)
  • analysis of the transmission system
  • areas inappropriate for development
  • integration of generation, demand and transmission requirement
As you can see, the issues are very broad and the analysis at a very high-level.
 
Yesterday, over 200 participants attended a BC Hydro workshop in Vancouver on the Province's renewable energy resource option potentialBC Hydro's presentation included a series of renewable energy resource maps of the Province showing potential sites for run-of-river, large hydro and pumped storage, wind, geothermal, biomass, solar and, wave and tidal. BC Hydro also provided detailed maps on so-called "exclusion areas" (ie, legal no build zones) and potential regional power clusters. I found the maps to to be very very interesting, albeit not particularly site specific. If you interested in where the renewable energy potential is in British Columbia you have to check out these maps (I am told the materials will be available on the BC Hydro site sometime soon).  BC Hydro has asked that stakeholders provide it with confidential comments on BC Hydro's version of the Province's resource option potential by August 14. Stakeholders may also submit their own comments directly to the BCUC through the Inquiry process. 
 
There is also a significant First Nations element to the Inquiry. The first issue which the BCUC is addressing in this regard, is the duty to consult and accommodate First Nations in the context of the Inquiry. I won't at this time get into the complex legal issues on the subject, but a further procedural conference on First Nations issues is scheduled at the BCUC on August 18 and 19, 2009 and written submissions are now being made.

With over 105 registered participants, the Section 5 Transmission Inquiry is certainly one of the most followed hearings ever before the BCUC, and one of the more interesting, especially with respect to the future development of renewable energy resources in this Province.

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BC Hydro's 2008 LTAP - BCUC Decision Coming Soon

The Tyee is reporting on its blog that the BCUC is expected to release its decision on BC Hydro's 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP) on Monday July 20.  You can click here for the BCUC's LTAP webpage for more information.

Once the BCUC releases its decision on the 2008 LTAP, BC Hydro will release the results of the Clean Power Call within four weeks following the date of the BCUC's decision on the 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan. How do I know that? Because BC Hydro said so.

July 27 Update: 4:50 pm. Here is the decision

You can now follow Megawatt and me on Twitter.

BC Hydro's 2008 LTAP - The Written Arguments Are In

The written arguments are now in and and only the final oral hearing remains (scheduled for June 1, 9am at the BCUC in Vancouver) in the matter of BC Hydro's 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP).  BC Hydro and an incredible 13 intervenors submitted written arguments to the BCUC in what has been a very thorough and hotly contested examination of the future of electricity generation in this province. If you are interested in reading the arguments, you can access all of them here, through the BCUC's excellent website.

June 2 Update: To view the BCUC transcripts from the June 1 Oral Phase, click here and go to the bottom of the page and click on "Transcript Volume 16 Oral Phase June 1, 2009".

July 15 Update: The Tyee is reporting on its blog that the BCUC is expected to release its decision on Monday July 20.  BC Hydro is expected to then release the results of the Clean Power Call no later than 4 weeks after the BCUC LTAP decision.

With the 2008 LTAP, the BCUC faces one of its most important decisions in recent memory. To the renewable energy industry in BC and the 68 proponents who bid 17,000 GWh's per year bid in to the Clean Call for Power, its decision whether to approve BC Hydro's request for a pre-attrition target of 3,000 GWh/year from last year's CPC is absolutely critical.  The breadth of the next series of renewable power generation depends on it.

BC Hydro's 3,000 GW/h request has been mired in controversy after the lunacy late last year. BC Hydro, for its part, is holding firm on the 3,000 GWh/year, while IPPBC and Nai Kun Wind Energy Group Inc. each presented arguments against this revised call volume. Of note, Nai Kun, went so far as to argue a pre-attrition CPC volume of 9,000 GWh/year.  The thing is, there is plenty of opportunity out there to fill that volume, and BC Hydro's DSM's program success is hard to measure, so I just wonder if the BCUC will reject BC Hydro's reasons for reducing the CPC volume on the basis of short-sightedness or whatever, or if it will simply acquiesce.  It's in their hands.

The BCUC's final decision on the 2008 LTAP is expected in late-June.  An entire industry and millions of investment dollars await, on pins and needles.....

June 30 @ 5pm Update: OK, so the end of June was not to be. I'll go on the record as saying a decision on the 2008 LTAP is expected anytime. 

The LTAP decision drives the clean call and helps shape the Section 5 Inquiry. We are all waiting for the LTAP decision.

BC Liberals Win, BC Carbon Tax Stays, Ontario is Legally Green and 7 Amazing Facts about Renewable Energy

This week's musings in renewable energy in British Columbia and beyond...
 
1. BC Re-elects Liberal Government - the government that ignited the renewable energy revolution in the province was re-elected with a new four-year mandate on Tuesday. This is good news for BC's independent power producers and renewable energy industry generally in the province, who faced much uncertainty during the election campaign with an opposition party platform which included a moratorium on new independent power production. One local developer is particularly happy. Crisis averted, now it's game-on for renewables in BC. Next up - the BCUC's decision on BC Hydro's 2008 LTAP, which is expected in June.
 
2. BC's Carbon Tax Survives - in a related story, the re-election of the BC Liberal government allows the controversial (and politically risky) carbon tax to survive to tax another day, much to the relief of the Premier (it was his baby) and environmental groups which see the result as a positive step in the fight against climate change. Now there may be hope that similar GHG reducing initiatives by regional governments are politically possible, perhaps even beneficial to a political party. The local story even caught the attention of the NY Times Green Inc. blog. Now if we really want to get down to business, let's use some of that carbon tax money to help further development of renewable energy.
 
3. US Windpower Industry Seeks Government Push - coming out of the massive AWEA conference in Chicago last week, is the story that the US wind energy industry is pressing for federal legislation in the US that would mandate that creation of a national renewable energy standard of 25 percent of the country's electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2025, up from around 7 percent now (with wind making up 1.5 percent). Similarly, CanWEA believes wind energy can satisfy 20% of Canada's electricity demand by 2025. I follow the US renewable energy industry with great interest as the Americans are taking a clear leadership role in advocating the benefits of renewables in the new green economy. Bottom line - if it's a no go south of the border, you can almost be sure it's not happening here.
 
4. Ontario Passes its Green Energy Act and Torontonians to Pay Premium Rates for Peak Power Two stories from yesterday's Globe and Mail. Ontario easily passed the Green Energy Act into law eliciting a boon for renewables. But Canada's first true green energy legislation is not without its controversy as the province tries to find its way around the nuclear energy quandary.
 
In a related story....
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The Future of Green Power Generation and Electricity Transmission in British Columbia

Next up at the British Columbia Utilities Commission, is the "Section 5 Transmission Inquiry" on electricity transmission in the Province.  Section 5 of the Utilities Commission Act directs the BCUC to conduct an inquiry  to make determinations with respect to BC's long-term (30 Year)infrastructure requirements for electricity transmission. 

As suggested by the Section 5 Transmission Inquiry Terms of Reference, the general purpose of the Inquiry is assess the future electricity demand in BC and the region, examine BC's renewable energy potential, assess the economic benefits that would occur from that infrastructure development, determine the potential future market opportunities to export clean and renewable electricity to other jurisdictions and then determine the transmission infrastructure necessary to access BC's clean, renewable and low-carbon electricity supply.  

The BCUC has scheduled two initial pre-Inquiry meetings at the BCUC Hearing Room (12th Floor, 1125 Howe Street, Vancouver), as follows: a preliminary workshop on Friday, April 17, 2009 and a procedural conference on Monday, April 27, 2009.  Both events are open to all who are interested, but you must first register with the BCUC.

Also, if you are interested in participating as an intervenor in the Inquiry itself you are asked to register by May 1, 2009. This can be done online via the BCUC's registration webpage. For further information, here is the BCUC's Filing Protocol for Intervenors and Interested Parties.

You can visit the Section 5 Inquiry webpage for more information now and during the course of Inquiry. You will find that the BCUC does a great job of updating its website on a timely basis with materials from the various hearings.  

Given the current discourse on power generation in this Province, the Section 5 Inquiry does not come at a better time. Here is a forum that will allow the many stakeholders to voice their various issues on the future of BC power generation and transmission in a public and controlled environment. Green energy and its related transmission requirements are two of the most important issues facing the Province today. So you can be sure the BCUC is going to be very busy over the next year. A draft report must be issued by the BCUC to the Government by June 2010.

Facts on Independent Power Production in British Columbia

Yesterday, the British Columbia Government, Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, issued a press release entitled "Facts on Independent Power Production" (click to download a copy), to correct misleading claims about electricity generation in the Province. It's a must read for anyone who is interested in green energy in British Columbia.  

The comprehensive press release deals with many of the falsehoods being spread by opponents to independent power producers and specifically addresses, with facts, the following topics: 

  • What it means to BC to be "electricity self-sufficient"
  • BC Hydro's on-going role in the BC Energy Plan
  • Costs to ratepayers for long-term IPP energy purchase contracts
  • The non-privatization of BC Hydro
  • Local input and environmental review of IPP projects
  • BC rivers remaining in the public's control
  • The possible future export of power by IPP's
  • The export/import debate
  • The number of current water power applications and what these mean
  • The total number of IPP's operating in BC and the investment they have brought
  • First Nations support of IPP projects

This release is very good timing given the current political climate and the unfourtunate, mostly politically motivated, backlash against the IPP industry. Hopefully, the facts will help educate the public about IPP's and we can then move to a proper dialogue on how we as a Province can use our incredible natural endowment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and reverse the damaging effects of climate change.  To do anything short of that would be a disgrace.

Wait a minute....is Burrard Thermal back in play?

That is a big question coming out the cross-examination of BC Hydro at the BCUC hearings into BC Hydro's 2008 LTAP. 

If you followed the hearings, by attending or, like me, you read the daily transcripts (see bottom of the BCUC webpage), you would have enjoyed a unique look inside some of the complex decision making that goes into planning BC's future electricity requirements.  And you would have also learned of a somewhat curious, but often-visited topic of discussion, one which could have a dramatic impact on the future of power generation in the Province and the air-quality in the Lower Mainland - Burrard Thermal.

Burrard Thermal, the outdated, inefficient and costly natural gas generation facility located in Port Moody, BC, was a popular topic for BC Hydro's panellists during the cross-examination. Some of the intervenors appeared to want the BCUC to consider whether BC Hydro should fire up Old Wheezy to its full generating capacity of 6,000 GW/h per year or more.  BC Hydro responded generally on maintaining the status quo, the significant costs to upgrade, and the possible loss of its social license to operate the facility.

The upgrade controversy lies in the facility itself. Burrard Thermal, has, for the past few years, been maintained by BC Hydro to operate as an "insurance policy", to be used only in peak demand periods, such as the recent cold snap in Vancouver in December 2008.  While capable of generating 950 MW of power, Burrard Thermal, when operating, produces significant greenhouse gas emissions (although not as much as it once did).  These pollutants, because of its urban location, are then spread throughout the Lower Mainland. It would cost hundreds of millions to upgrade the aging facility to full generating capacity. The good news is that BC Hydro has scheduled Burrard Thermal for retirement as a firm energy supplier by 2014. This is supported by the Government's BC Energy Plan.  Fine. She was a good facility, reliable in her day, provided lots of jobs over the years, but soon it will be time for BC Hydro to her to go, to be replaced by some young upstart, modern, efficient and clean renewable power generating facility.  That's called modernization of your grid and, given the availability of green power alternatives today, it just makes sense.

So, Burrard Thermal generating at full capacity? Like Bobby Orr in a Blackhawk uniform, or Michael Jordan on the White Sox, some things just should not happen.

The Brookfield Plan - An Independent Electricity Procurement Entity

As part of the BCUC's hearing on BC Hydro's 2008 LTAP, Brookfield Renewable Power Inc. submitted a Letter of Comment to the BCUC regarding British Columbia's current electricity procurement process. The commentary is drafted in the context of the Clean Power Call and ultimately calls for an independent electricity procurment entity.  For any proponent of renewable energy in the Province, the letter is definitely worth a read.

Brookfield has vast experience in developing renewable projects in North and South America so it speaks from a position of authority when it criticizes the apparent conflict of interest which exists in British Columbia with BC Hydro acting as buyer, developer and producer of energy and capacity.

The letter specifically identifies four areas of conflict of interest in the Clean Power Call's RFP document which could help shape BC Hydro's development efforts and make BC Hydro's project's appear better. These four areas are:

  1. Knowledge of IPP pricing in context of possible Site C development;
  2. Length of bid process resulting in higher bid prices;
  3. Non-standard risks: non-firm energy pricing and shortfall liquidated damages; and
  4. Subjective evaluation of proposals.

I believe that it is extremely beneficial to the Province's power industry when the experiences in other jurisdictions are brought to the attention of Government, BC Hydro, the BCUC and the public at large. So I commend Brookfield for filing the Letter of Comment with the BCUC. What will come of it, who knows? But it is better than not to have at least considered the issues.

March 20 Update: Here is a link to today's story in the Vancouver Sun on the Brookfield Plan, which includes some comments from Government.

March 24 Update: The Vancouver Sun's Energy Hotlines Blog, written by its energy reporter, Scott Simpson, has provided some further update on the March 20 news story. Here is the link to the blog post.

BCUC Oral Public Hearing Information Guide (2008 LTAP)

As previously advised, starting on Thursday, February 19, 2009, the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) will commence oral public hearings on the approval for BC Hydro's 2008 Long-Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP). 

This week, the BCUC kindly provided participants with some information to assist them by explaining the process. As the BCUC states, the information letter is also "for others who simply want to observe the proceedings, make a statement about the Application, or submit a letter of  comment, this document will also help." 

Here is the BCUC Oral Public Hearing Procedural Information Guide.

The hearings will be held

  February 19, 2009
09:00 AM
Commission Hearing Room on the Twelfth Floor
1125 Howe Street
Vancouver BC

Electricity Showdown at the BCUC

 

BC HYDRO 2008 LTAP HEARINGS

 

 

Main Event:      February 19, 2009 - Oral Public Hearings 
                              (expected to last one month)

Undercard:

  • February 10, 2009  - BC Hydro responds in writing to BCUC Staff and Intervenors Information Requests  (click here for a link to all filings with the BCUC in respect of BC Hydro's 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan)
  • February 13, 2009 -  BC Hydro Direct Testimony and Rebuttal Evidence, if any

 Location:         BC Utilities Commission

Participants:

Decision: 

  • BCUC decision is expected in June or July

 

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