The Case For Electrifying BC's Natural Gas Fields

It is no secret that beneath the surface of the northeast section of the province of British Columbia lies very large natural gas reserves. Last week, the Provincial Government announced that it believes the province has an astounding 3.93 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas potential, of which 449 trillion cubic feet are estimated in the Montney gas field alone, roughly a 150 year supply (presumably based on current Canadian use).

Energy intensive natural gas processing and piping from the wellhead to the processing plants can be done using natural gas or electricity. In B.C., electricity from the BC Hydro grid is about 93% renewable. Given the expected long life span of the drilling activity in the Montney, it makes economic sense to electrify operations in this region. Any fear of stranded investment in electricity infrastructure is virtually eliminated.

The business case for electrifying the Montney gas fields including processing in B.C. is compelling. That it can be paid for is of course critical, but there are many more reasons:

  1. The Montney is located relatively close to the B.C. Hydro transmission grid and much of the new generation that would be required (wind and small hydro projects with thermal back-up);
  2. B.C.’s predominantly clean electricity makes for low emission gas extraction (attention: “Cleanest LNG in the World”);
  3.  A significant opportunity for the B.C. renewable energy industry, including First Nations (see Premier’s mandate letter to Minister Bennett);
  4.  First Nations participation in natural gas industry (see Premier’s mandate letter to Minister Rustad);
  5. Private sector investment, jobs and economic development in remote B.C. communities; and
  6. Royalty capture (less gas burned to produce gas, so more Provincial natural gas royalties).

Electrification of the fields and processing is not a novel concept. Just look at some current examples:

  1. The Bakken oil fields in North Dakota where the local utility, Basin Electric, is building a new 200 mile $347 million transmission line and two power plants;
  2. The Permian Basin oil fields in Texas will be serviced by the new $7 billion CREZ wind power supported transmission line; and
  3.  In eastern Ohio, electricity is being used for natural gas processing.

Here in B.C., the Northwest Transmission Line is being built to support future mining development in the northwest sector of the province. The electrification opportunity in the natural gas fields and processing plants is greater and even more certain that the mining potential.

The time for expansion of the B.C. transmission grid to support electrification is now. British Columbia has no shortage of renewable energy resources and developers keen to supply the electricity requirements of the natural gas industry.  Using clean renewable electricity to support large scale industrial development is a hallmark of this province. There are many good reasons to support electrification including reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It is time to get on with it.

BC Government Report on its BC Hydro Review

Today, the British Columbia government released its report on its review of BC Hydro [pdf]. The comprehensive Report is written by a government appointed review panel which was devised in response to BC Hydro's proposed 32% electricity rate increase over three years.

The Report provides 56 recommendations to BC Hydro and mostly addresses the internal operations of BC Hydro, but also touches on current and past BC energy policy and the impact on BC Hydro operations.

The Report does not directly address the future of the BC clean energy industry, but if you read between the lines, the Report does offer some nuggets of information that could impact independent power producers and clean energy enthusiasts. For instance, there is a recommendation that government and BC Hydro review the Clean Energy Act's self-sufficiency requirement considering the current market price of electricity (see pages 92-93).  This would certainly be a worthwhile exercise, but there are no easy answers as to how to best address this issue.

There is also some discussion about the Report which states (on page 107) that "IPPs in F2010 provided 16% of the total domestic electricity requirements, while representing 49% of the domestic energy cost." This may or may not be true, but it is a misleading statement if taken out of context. The majority of British Columbia's generating facilities (large-scale dams) were built in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, so naturally, the cost of power from these facilities is substantially lower than from facilities built more recently. As the BC economy has grown, new generation facilities (some by IPPs, some by BC Hydro) were built at market rates. The cost of old power and new power are blended together to form today's rates. Therefore, it categorically misleading (though perhaps self-serving) to characterize IPPs built today as expensive compared to inexpensive power coming from the dams built decades ago. I am not always certain people are aware of this basic difference. Power from facilities built more recently is of course more expensive than power from dams built years ago.  BC Hydro, or anyone for that matter, can build power facilities today, at 1960s rates. But in growing economies, new electricity generation is needed to support the demand, and in BC, we are blessed with the legacy of cheap power from dams, so when it is mixed with new generation, BC is able to enjoy some of the lowest electricity rates in the world. But for how long? That still remains to be seen.

If we have learned anything over the past few years, is that a fluid energy policy is crucial for British Columbia - an energy policy which can adapt to market forces, provide optimal balance between private, public and first nations enterprise, and protect the environment for future generations of British Columbians.

As the Province moves forward in the 21st century, partnerships among power purchasers, producers, first nations and other key stakeholders are critical.  The government Report on BC Hydro adds valuable insight to the ongoing discussion and debate on how British Columbia can best meet the economic, environmental and community goals in building a clean energy future in the Province of British Columbia.

Here are media reports from the Globe and Mail; Vancouver Sun; and Vancouver Sun editorial board.

Update: BC's Cap and Trade Regulations - Consultation Papers Released

Just a quick update on our blog post last week. Today, the Ministry of Environment released two consultation papers in connection with BC's proposed cap and trade legislation under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade) Act:

The consultation paper for Cap and Trade Offsets Regulation can be found here (pdf); and
The consultation paper for Emissions Trading Regulation can be found here (pdf).
The backgrounder for Carbon Pricing policy in British Columbia is here (pdf).
The Ministry has a given the public 45 days (to December 6, 2010) to provide comments on the two papers. To do that please go here.
The Ministry is also conducting a webinar on the consultation papers on Monday, October 25 at 11am (we understand that there may be others). Here are the dial-in instructions.

These regulations are especially important to the Province as it continues in it efforts to fight climate change by reducing BC's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33% below 2007 levels by 2020. 

Coming Soon: BC's Cap and Trade Regulations

British Columbians are eagerly awaiting the release of the Ministry of Environment’s consultation papers on the proposed Cap and Trade Emissions Trading Regulation and the Cap and Trade Offsets Regulation, which were set to be posted on the Ministry’s website in September 2010.  Once the consultation papers are posted a 45 day consultation period will follow where the Ministry will be seeking comments from stakeholders, First Nations and the general public on the proposed regulations.

The proposed regulations will be introduced under the authority of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade) Act (the “Cap and Trade Act”) which enables the Province to put into place a cap and trade system, the details of which will be worked out in co-operation with the provincial and state Partners of the Western Climate Initiative (“WCI”).  The WCI recently released its report on the “Design for the WCI Regional Program”, which serves as a guidance document for WCI Partner jurisdictions as they implement cap and trade systems on January 1, 2012. The WCI Partners have committed to reduce regional greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions to 15% below 2005 levels by 2020. To achieve this goal, the WCI’s approach involves the use of a flexible, market-based, regional cap and trade program that caps GHG emissions and uses tradable permits. The program is designed to act as an incentive for WCI Partners, companies and inventors to develop renewable and clean energy technologies, as well as reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which will further allow the Province to meet its objectives set out in the Clean Energy Act

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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'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.

Vancouver's Green Olympics

With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games set to leap out of the starting gate on February 12, we thought it would appropriate to highlight some of the initiatives that are helping make the 2010 Vancouver Games the "greenest" and most sustainable Olympic games ever.

As the Globe and Mail reported last week, in Whistler, BC, the sight of the alpine skiing and sliding events for the 2010 Winter Olympics, Innergex Renewable Energy Inc., is days away generating electricity from its $33 million 7.9 megawatt small-scale hydroelectric facility on Fitzsimmons Creek. Innergex signed a 40 year electricity purchase agreement with BC Hydro and the Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Electric Project will generate an estimated 33,000 MWh annually of green electrons, enough to supply the two ski resorts at Whistler and Blackcomb.
BC Hydro, which produces 80% of the Province's electricity from major hydro-electric generating stations located on the Columbia and Peace Rivers, and BCTC will be providing most of the electricity for the Olympic venues, but some venues will have IOC mandated diesel power generators as added redundancy for broadcasting and scorekeeping purposes. As the Vancouver Sun reported, this has been no small task, especially with respect to the International Broadcast Centre.
Other notable "green" initiatives involving the 2010 Olympic Games include:
To help offset an individual's carbon footprint while attending the Games, official Olympic supplier Offsetters is offering an official Olympic pin in return for your purchase of one tonne of carbon offsets ($25). Offsetter's has set up a booth at the Vancouver International Airport where the carbon offsets may be purchased.
As we previously blogged about, Canada Hockey Place and the other skating venues will feature electric ice-resurfacer's (zamboni's), which will no doubt be very busy during the Games.
The City of Vancouver recently revealed North America's first neighbourhood energy centre which uses sewage to create enough heat and hot water for the Olympic Village site and thousands of residences and businesses in the southeast False Creek area of Vancouver. The $30 million facility will use heat recovered from untreated waste water to heat the neighbourhood in lieu of traditional gas or electric heat. Here is the Vancouver Sun's recent article profiling the facility.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler recently upgraded its waste water treatment plant which will be used to heat and cool the athlete's village in Whistler.
Even Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola will use the Games to demonstrate new non-hydro fluorocarbon using vending machines at 1,400 locations.
Vancouver's own Pulse Energy, an energy management software company, has set up a fascinating website that provides real-time energy consumption at selected Olympic venues.
Finally, while not an Olympic venue, but certainly a landmark nobody will miss overlooking the City of Vancouver, Grouse Mountain's 1.5 MW wind turbine is expected to operational in time for the start of the Games. Be sure to check out the turbine's unique viewing deck located 57m above the ground.
The 2010 Games are turning out to be an excellent showcase for BC's low-carbon business innovation and the Province's natural endowment of green energy resources. Kudos to those who have made this possible.
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February 3, 2010 Update. The David Suzuki Foundation awarded the Vancouver Olympics with bronze medal in a "climate scorecard".  As the Vancouver Sun reported today, the Vancouver-based foundation gave the Olympic organizers credit for innovative and energy-efficient venues, and for mainly using clean hydroelectric energy but also alternatives such as waste heat from refrigeration systems, landfill methane, and ground-source heat pumps.
February 10 Update: Here is VANOC's press release on its sustainability report.

Update: Public Submissions Invited by Green Energy Advisory Task Force

The BC Government announced today that it wants to hear from the public about its ideas on the future of clean and renewable energy in British Columbia.

The Green Energy Advisory Task Force met for the first time over two days at the end of last week and it now invites submissions from the public on any of the four task force groups topics:

  • clean energy procurement and regulatory reform;
  • carbon pricing, trading and clean energy export market development;
  • community engagement and First Nations partnerships; and
  • clean energy resource development.
The public may make submissions directly to the Green Energy Advisory Task Force until December 31.
For more information on how to make a submission please see the Green Energy Advisory Task Force public submissions webpage (click for the link).
These are important topics, each having an impact on the future economic, environmental and community development of the province.  The Province is welcoming the public's input on these topics.

BC's Green Energy Advisory Task Force

Following up on the BC Government's August 2009 throne speech and the Premier's announcement on November 2, 2009, today, the BC Government announced the members of, and the terms of reference for, BC's Green Energy Advisory Task Force. 

Here is the weblink for public submissions, which can be made on any of the four task force topics until December 31.
I am very pleased to have been appointed to be a part of a team that will advance BC's long-term vision for green energy.
Reporting directly to the Cabinet Committee on Climate Action and Clean Energy, the Green Energy Advisory Task Force will comprise of the following 4 advisory task force groups:
  • Green Energy Advisory Task Force on Procurement and Regulatory Reform
    This task force will recommend improvements to BC Hydro’s procurement and regulatory regimes to enhance clarity, certainty and competitiveness in promoting clean and cost-effective power generation; and identify possible improvements to future clean power calls and procurement processes.
  • Green Energy Advisory Task Force on Carbon Pricing, Trading and Export Market Development
    This task force will develop recommendations to advance British Columbia’s interests in any future national or international cap and trade system, and to maximize the value of B.C.’s green-energy attributes in all power generated and distributed within and beyond B.C. borders. The task force will also develop recommendations on carbon-pricing policies and how to integrate these policies with any cap and trade system developed for B.C.
  • Green Energy Advisory Task Force on Community Engagement and First Nations Partnerships
    This task force will develop recommendations to ensure that First Nations and communities see clear benefits from the development of clean and renewable electricity and have a clear opportunity for input in project development in their areas. It will work in partnership with First Nations, not only to respect their constitutional right, but to open up new opportunities for job creation and reflect the best practices in environmental protection.
  • Green Energy Advisory Task Force on Resource Development
    This task force will identify impediments to and best practices for planning and permitting new clean, renewable-electricity generation to ensure that development happens in an environmentally sustainable way. The task force will also consider allocation of forest fibre to support energy development and invite input from solar, tidal, wave and other clean energy sectors to develop strategies to enhance their competitiveness.
BC has tremendous green energy potential and we are pleased that the government is taking steps that will help turn British Columbia's energy potential into real economic, environmental and social benefits for all British Columbians.

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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Ontario: Leading Canada's Green Economy - A Lesson For British Columbia

In September, the Ontario government announced a series of initiatives in the renewable energy sector which are designed to open up investment opportunities in that province's green economy on its way to establishing Ontario as "North America's leader in renewable energy" (its words not mine).

Ontario calls its initiatives the "Ten Steps to Green Energy". Below is a list of those ten steps, along with some comparison to what has or has not been done in British Columbia.

1. Ontario announced it will close four coal-fuelled power units in 2010 - four years ahead of the 2014 target. In BC, we do not have coal-fired electricity generation facilities, but BC Hydro's aging Burrard Thermal, which burns natural gas to create electricity, still exists.  A decision on its closure is expected, but has not yet been made.

2. Ontario launched an Aboriginal Energy Partnerships Program. In BC, there is the Remote Community Clean Energy Program which last year provided $20 million to remote communities to encourage and support sustainable remote community clean energy systems.

3. Ontario announced the $250 million Aboriginal Loan Guarantee program (ALGP). In BC, there is no similar program, except as mentioned above. I wrote about the Ontario aboriginal program here.

4. Ontario gave the go-ahead to Hydro One to begin work on 20 new transmission projects. In BC, BCTC filed a $5.3 billion Ten Year Capital Plan in 2008, which includes $657 million over 10 years for interconnecting clean and renewable generation. Also recently announced is that the 330 km Northwest Transmission Line will proceed at an estimated cost of $404 million.

5. Ontario, through the Community Energy Partnerships Program, is trying to make it easier for communities in Ontario to bring green energy projects to life.  I am not aware of a similar program in BC, but the Community Energy Association is promoting energy efficiency and alternative energy through community energy planning and project implementation in British Columbia. Here is a good summary of its work. 

6. Ontario, through the Municipal Renewable Energy Program, is trying to make it easier for municipalities to bring green energy projects to their communities. I am not aware of a similar program in BC, but the Community Energy Association's vision is somewhat parallel.

7. Ontario established the Renewable Energy Facilitation Office (REFO), to assist developers, communities and municipalities obtain information on developing renewable energy projects in Ontario. In BC, we have Front Counter BC and the BC IPP Office. BC has also published the IPP Guidebook to assist IPP developers through the province's regulatory process.

8. The province's Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process became law by regulation through enactment of the Green Energy Act. There is no similar express renewable energy regulation in BC.

9. Ontario develops domestic content requirements which would ensure at least 25 per cent of wind projects and 50 per cent of large solar projects be produced in Ontario. There is no similar production requirement in BC.

10. Ontario's Green Energy Act became law and by regulation introduces North America's first comprehensive feed-in tariff program that guarantees specific rates for energy generated from renewable sources. There is no Green Energy Act in BC and BC does not have a specific feed-in tariff, but BC Hydro has the Standing Offer Program for projects less than 10MW. 

As the above analysis reveals, while it has taken some steps forward, BC has not yet acted in the same cohesive and coordinated manner that Ontario has in its support of the renewable energy sector in this province.  In particular, the fact that a pronounced and comprehensive multi-fuel source feed-in tariff for BC has not been proclaimed is one of the greatest differences between BC and Ontario.  In my view, this is the principal reason why Ontario today is attracting considerable investment in green energy, while BC waits on the sidelines.  The BC government would be wise to examine and learn from the Ontario green energy experience if it truly wants to become a renewable energy powerhouse.

Renewable energy is a very important topic in BC. I welcome  your comments and/or suggestions. Feel free to make a direct comment on the blog below and I will post them in due course. 

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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.

Greenwashing - Why it's Bad for your Business

Business for Social Responsibility (a global organization with over 250 member companies whose goal is to develop sustainable business strategies and solutions) has recently co-published a report with Futerra Sustainability Communications (a UK-based communications agency that focuses on corporate responsibility and sustainability) entitled "Understanding and Preventing Greenwash: A Business Guide".

The report makes for a fascinating read, especially as pressures mount on businesses to offer green products and to be seen to be acting in an environmentally positive manner.  The Report identifies several challenges to businesses: (i) global trust in businesses is at an all-time low and is diminishing (with trust in advertising at 13% and trust in company websites at only 30%); and (ii) demand for environmentally low-impact products is rising, while communicating accurately and credibly about the environmental sensitivity of a business' products is becoming more complex.  The risks to a company of misrepresenting the environmental friendliness of itself or its products - thereby being seen to be greenwashing, can be severe, including less consumer sales, boycotts by NGOs and fines and enforcement actions by regulators.  The Report also notes that greenwashing is also a barrier to developing a sustainable economy, by making consumers more skeptical of environmental initiatives and making it difficult for consumers to understand the impact of their purchasing decisions.

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? 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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Green vs Black - The Canadian Hydro vs TransAlta Face-Off

There is an interesting battle playing out in the Canadian energy marketplace and it doesn't involving the oil patch. This time, it's big coal TransAlta seeking to buy Canadian renewable energy pioneer Canadian Hydro Developers for $4.55 per share. 

Canadian Hydro, founded by renewable energy pioneers, John and Ross Keating is a true leader in its field, operating wind, hydroelectric and biomass projects in BC, Alberta and Quebec. In June, it added the 198MW Wolfe Island wind farm to bring its operating total to 694 megawatts with another 252 megawatts in late-stage development.  Canadian Hydro Developers truly is a great Canadian renewable energy success story.

TransAlta is a giant power generator, which operates over 50 power plants (over 8000 MW) mainly from coal but with some wind energy (248MW).

TransAlta's hostile takeover notice came in last Monday. By Thursday, Canadian Hydro's CEO, Kent Brown and the board of directors asked that shareholders reject TransAlta's hostile bid, calling it "inadequate" and TransAlta's timing "purely opportunistic."  On Friday, Mr. Brown appeared on the Business News Network and made a compelling case for shareholders to reject TransAlta offer. Here is the 8 minute video link. 

On August 6, 2009, Canadian Hydro's board of directors issued a directors circular to all shareholders regarding TransAlta's offer. Here is the August 6 press release.

Those in the renewable energy industry are watching this story very closely. Could this the first move by coal and oil & gas in an attempt to take over the renewable energy sector and control the growth of clean and green energy in Canada? I see this hostile bid as TransAlta's way to green itself, to buy clean energy assets in order to offset CO2 emissions ultimately acting as a hedge against upcoming cap-and-trade laws. An interesting plan for sure. Perhaps it is thought to be cheaper to buy the green assets now, rather than purchasing the carbon offsets later? If that is true, then it is possible that Canadian Hydro is undervalued today.

There are so many questions, that only time will be able to answer. At least for now, the decision rests in the hands of the Canadian Hydro shareholders to do nothing or tender their shares.

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Pacific Carbon Trust Makes First Offset Delivery

The Pacific Carbon Trust has made its first delivery of carbon offsets to the B.C. government. The transaction, which consisted of 34,370 tonnes of emission offsets, represents an important landmark in the development of the Trust.

The Trust was created in 2008 as a B.C. crown corporation to facilitate the carbon offset aspect of the government’s environment policy. In particular, the Trust has a mandate to deliver offsets to Provincial Government ministries, all of which will be required to offset their carbon emission by 2010 under the Greenhouse Gas Reductions Targets Act. To date, the Trust has acquired offsets from 15 facilities in B.C. and aims to purchase over 700,000 tonnes of carbon offsets per year by 2011.

In a recent press release, Minister of State for Climate Action John Yap said he felt the Trust has been a success story so far and is helping to deliver on the government’s green economy initiative. Mr. Yap has reason to be excited about the Trust’s accomplishments given that it is delivering carbon offsets in only its first year of operations.

The wider impact of the Trust on B.C.’s green economy is also evident in the success of private offset businesses such as Offsetters. The Trust has purchased over 300,000 carbon offsets from the offset provider to be delivered over 5 years. The Trust also recently entered into an offset contract with Sempa Power Systems. Sempa has created a successful enterprise installing energy efficient hybrid heating systems in hotels and other buildings.

To date, the Pacific Carbon Trust has been an example of the Provincial Government’s ability to stimulate B.C.’s green economy through innovative projects and legislation designed to encourage private initiative. Megawatt will keep you posted on further developments for the Trust and the world of carbon offsets.

Electric Cars in the News

During the past week, the government of Ontario and the City of Vancouver have both made announcements concerning electric cars.

In Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that Ontario would provide rebates of between $4,000 and $10,000 to offset the price of plug-in hybrid and and battery-powered vehicles.  At current levels, Ontario's rebates will be the most attractive in North America.  As a further incentive, buyers of electric cars will also get special licence plates that will allow them to use carpool lanes, even if there is only one person in the vehicle.

The aim of this program is to have one out of every 20 vehicles in Ontario electrically powered by 2010.  The Ontario government hopes that expanding the use of electric cars in Ontario will create jobs in Ontario and put Ontario at the forefront of the green economy. 

On the other side of Canada, Vancouver's city council has unanimously approved new regulations for electric vehicle charging stations.  Under the regulations, developers will have to provide charging stations for at least 20 percent of parking stalls in new condominium developments.  The regulations come into effect in mid-2010. 

2,775 MW - Canada's Installed Wind Energy Capacity

With the recent completion of the 197.8 MW Wolfe Island EcoPower Centre off the coast of Kingtson, Ontario by Canadian Hydro Developers, Canada now has 2,775 MW of installed wind energy capacity, or enough power to meet the annual needs of 840,000 homes, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association. 

Where is all of this wind energy in Canada?  Check out this map of Canada's current installed capacity.  Note that Ontario is now the leading province with 1,162 MW of installed capacity and BC currently has no operating wind farms. The Province's goose egg in the wind energy department will be changing very soon with the Bear Mountain wind farm project  just south of Dawson Creek nearing completion. The turbines there are expected to be spinning in late fall. Should be quite a sight. 

You should be hearing a lot more from BC wind energy developers in the coming months. Collectively, they bid 19 wind projects into BC Hydro's clean power call. And, as I blogged about last week, Grouse Mountain is working to install a single 1.5 MW wind turbine, which will serve a dual role - part electricity generator (up to 20% of Grouse Mountain's annual requirements) and part tourist attraction (it will have an elevator to an observation deck).

And just to touch on when the results of the clean power call may be released by BC Hydro - barring a major shocker, it will happen after the BCUC releases its decision on BC Hydro's 2008 LTAP.  When that will be is anybody's guess. It could happen any day now. With billions of investment dollars waiting to be spent in this province, one hopes that the BCUC's decision will come sooner rather than later and that BC Hydro's much awaited decision on the CPC comes immediately thereafter, so we can all get to work on building the green energy projects the province so desperately needs.

The Emerging Climate Consciousness - Public Company Disclosure and Beyond

Recently, I ran across an excellent article in the Spring 2009 issue of Corporate Governance Quarterly called “Climate Change Disclosure Heats Up”. The authors, Patricia Koval, Tyson Dyck and Michael Pickersgill of Torys LLP, discuss public companies’ disclosures pertaining to the companies’ exposure to “climate risks”. This broad risk category includes matters such as: how climate change affects the company’s profitability, what opportunities / challenges climate change presents to the company, and what actions the company is taking in anticipation of the various climate change related regulations coming down the pipe (e.g. the anticipated mandatory cap-and-trade system on greenhouse gas emissions). 

The article contains a good review of Canadian public company disclosure requirements, and in particular the challenges created by the general requirement contained in National Instrument -51-102 Continuous Disclosure Obligations that requires issuers to disclose in their Management Discussion and Analysis filings (to borrow the paraphrasing from the article) “any known trends, demands, commitments, events or uncertainties that are reasonably likely to affect the issuer’s business or that management reasonably believes will materially affect the issuer’s future performance”. This obligation would likely impose a need to discuss the financial and operational impacts of environmental protection and climate change legislation on the issuer’s business, which may include such things as the recent legislation and proposed legislation in B.C. (see a summary of climate change legislation here), Ontario (see, for example the proposed Environmental Protection Amendment Act) and in the U.S. (see, for example the draft American Clean Energy and Security Act colloquially known as The Waxman-Markey Act) all, therefore, need to be taken to account. 

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Offsetters: Your Official Carbon Offset Provider for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games

In a previous post, I discussed the concept of carbon offsets and looked at the Pacific Carbon Trust in particular. The Trust is a new B.C. crown corporation that provides carbon emission offsets to businesses and government ministries. This week, the Megawatt spotlight is on Offsetters Clean Technology Inc. Offsetters is a B.C. based company and one of Canada’s leading offset providers. Notably, Offsetters was recently named the Official Carbon Offset Provider of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Offsetters was founded in 2005 by two professors at the University of British Columbia. The company has created numerous carbon offset projects to date, many of which increased the energy efficiency of existing businesses and encouraged the introduction of more efficient energy systems. For example, one offset project was based on the use of a new biomass boiler to heat greenhouses, while another project involved the purchase of a ground-source heat pump system for an extended care facility. Offsetters states that these projects would not have been possible without funds from carbon offset purchasers.

One reason Offsetters focuses on energy efficiency projects, rather than forestry based carbon offsets, is that it claims the carbon reductions from energy efficiency undertakings are more easily verifiable. In particular, a representative from the company suggested that carbon offsets based on tree planting may be less successful because when the trees eventually decompose, they release stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Offsetters insures that all carbon emission reductions from its projects are independently verified by a qualified engineering firm.

In addition to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, Offsetters has already assembled an impressive list of clients. These include Vancity Capital, Bunting Coady Architects and Avison Young Real Estate Solutions, to name just a few. Offsetters also partners with West Jet and Air France to provide free carbon offsets to airline passengers. Patrons of either company may elect to have the carbon emissions from their flight offset by the airline at no cost to themselves.

Megawatt will keep you posted on new developments in the world of carbon offsets and other climate change solutions.

Free Money: Canada's Clean Energy Fund Program

So you would like some free money for your clean energy project demonstration? The Government of Canada through its recently announced Clean Energy Fund Program is now offering $850 million over five years for the demonstration of promising technologies, including large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, and renewable energy and clean energy systems demonstration. An additional $150 million over 5 years is available for clean energy research and development.
You can read more about the Clean Energy Fund Program here and here, and the Request for Proposals (RFP) for funding.
For renewable and clean energy project demonstrations, $200 million of free Canadian dollars is available to those who meet certain eligibility criteria and have full project proposals submitted no later than end of business on September 14, 2009.  Note that the first step is to file with the federal government an "Intent to Submit Project Proposal".
Technologies eligible for funding include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Smart Grids
  • Plug-in Hybrid electric charging infrastructure
  • efficient systems which facilitate intermittent renewable power and heat
  • utility scale storage systems
  • heat pump with natural refrigerants and supply of renewable energy
  • efficient hybrid systems combining renewable or waste energy with limited fossil fuel input for remote communities
  • geothermal or waste heat sources upgraded for power and and heat for communities
  • wind energy technologies that address Canadian challenges (ie cold climate, remote communities, offshore application and grid integration)
  • marine energy
  • low head hydro
  • solar thermal and PV systems

The good news is that the Government of Canada has again recognized the importance of renewables and the need to meet the diverse demands of the country. The bad news is that there is a lot more money being diverted to cleaning up the pollution, rather than replacing the pollutters altogether.

New Carbon Offset Opportunities from the Pacific Carbon Trust

The British Columbia Government’s Climate Action Plan will soon be providing new opportunities to organizations and entrepreneurs interested in undertaking environmental “carbon offset” projects. Carbon offsets are projects that reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere in order to counteract global warming. The economic concept behind carbon offsets is that businesses and organizations purchase “carbon credits” generated by the projects to cancel out their own carbon emissions. Businesses usually purchase carbon credits in order to improve public relations or meet regulatory standards.

The Provincial Government created the Pacific Carbon Trust  as a crown corporation to facilitate the carbon offset aspect of its Green Economy Initiative. In particular, the Trust was created to serve the needs of British Columbia Government ministries, all of which will be required to offset their carbon emission by 2010 under the Greenhouse Gas Reductions Targets Act. The Trust will purchase carbon credits from private suppliers and then sell them to government ministries and businesses.

The Trust recently asked potential carbon offset suppliers to provide information on the kinds of projects they would create and market to the Trust. The Trust expressed particularly strong interest in forestry projects that aim to offset carbon emissions by increasing tree density. All offset projects marketed to the Trust must be based in British Columbia. The Trust plans to purchase carbon credits from offset suppliers by the end of 2009 and will publish a detailed guide on how to submit project proposals to the Trust in July.

Stay tuned to the Megawatt blog for more on the Pacific Carbon Trust and other carbon offset opportunities.  


UNBC to Use Renewable Energy to Heat Campus

The University of Northern British Columbia, located in Prince George, BC has selected Vancouver based, Nexterra Energy Corp. to supply and install a turnkey biomass gasification system to heat UNBC's campus and anchor its new Northern Bioenergy Innovation Centre.

According to the press release issued last week, Nexterra's system is part of a $14.8 million bioenergy program that includes upgraded road and utility infrastructure, a new building and a "living laboratory" for bioenergy research and development. The Nexterra gasification system will convert locally-sourced wood residue into clean-burning "syngas" that will displace up to 85% of the natural gas currently used to heat the campus. The project, which is jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments, is expected to begin in June 2009. It will be complete by mid 2010 and construction will support approximately 150 jobs.

By using wood residue to displace natural gas, UNBC will reduce its fossil fuel consumption by 80,000 GJ/year, the equivalent of natural gas required to heat over 700 homes in B.C. The new system will also reduce the university's carbon footprint by approximately 3,500 tonnes annually, the equivalent of taking 1,000 cars off the road.

This is a great story about the future of British Columbia. Here we have a BC based company supplying its homegrown green energy technology to a BC university, with the fuel for the plant coming from the local forest industry. I call this a win-win for the people of Prince George and the Province of British Columbia.  Not only will Nexterra's system help provide a much needed market for local forest waste and foster further research and innovation in the growing renewable energy sector, UNBC's decision to replace natural gas with biofuel to heat its campus will also contribute in the critical fight against climate change.

The way I see it, when there are viable non-GHG emitting alternatives to traditional sources of energy, let's just simply use them. UNBC's initiative is just another example of fresh forward thinking, something we all expect out of an institution of higher learning.

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 Case for Renewable Energy in British Columbia


Tomorrow, voters in British Columbia will determine who will govern the province for the next four years. Voters will also be choosing the direction the province will take in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the development of electricity from the province's abundant natural resources.

As you may be aware, the two principal political parties in BC offer completely opposite platforms in this respect. The incumbent Liberals are for the continued development of the renewable energy industry in the province. While the opposition NDP has called for a flat-out industry killing moratorium on independent power production in BC.

So today, in support of the renewable energy industry in the province, we direct you to Pristine Power's Harvie Campbell's op-ed in today's Vancouver Sun, where he makes the case for the renewable energy industry in British Columbia. Here's an brief excerpt:

The coming election offers British Columbians a clear choice -- we can choose a clean energy future that will grow our economy, create green-collar jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Or we can turn back the clock, tune out the rest of the world, and continue to rely on dirty imported power from coal plants, while we export jobs and opportunities to our neighbours.

There is no good reason why we shouldn't be seizing the opportunity to fulfill B.C.'s potential as a clean energy power house for the benefit of our economy, and the benefit of our environment.


Build It And They Will Plug-In: Vancouver's First Plug-In Condo Tower

Vancouver real estate developer Concord Pacific announced today that it is developing Vancouver's first plug-in electric vehicle capable building. As the Vancouver Sun reported today, the Cosmo, which is scheduled to be completed in 2012, will have capacity for residents to plug-in and charge their electric vehicles. The planned 23-story building in downtown Vancouver, will have 220v plug-in capability in about 20% of the underground parking stalls at a cost of approximately $5,000 per.

As I previously blogged, the City of Vancouver is generating considerable buzz about its new fondness for electric vehicles and generally for the green agenda around the City. Concord Pacific's Cosmo, and hopefully there will be more like it, is simply the next step in building the massive infrastructure needed to support a city-wide network of electric cars. I commend Concord Pacific for their leadership on this green initiative. Perhaps the City of Vancouver will even offer incentives to developers who install a percentage of plug-in capable parking stalls in their buildings. This makes perfect sense to me, and it is a great way for the City to quickly build the electric car infrastructure at a low cost. City developers will undoubtedly be following this story.

Green buildings are the way of the future, with electric vehicle plug-in capability now forming part of the suite of green initiatives (along with geothermal heating, solar paneled windows, rainwater capture, etc, etc) available to developers.  The possibility of electric cars is also incredible, especially now with our capability of generating electricity from a variety of renewable sources. If anywhere, with its natural endowment of renewable energy resources, British Columbia is particularly well suited for electric vehicles, but at what cost to BC Hydro's expensive investment in its demand side management (Power Smart) program. Electric vehicles sort of kill that initiative. Stay tuned. The book is still being written on BC's electric car story. 

Update: US EPA Comments on Draft American Clean Energy and Security Act

Following up from my previous post on the introduction of the Waxman-Markey Discussion Draft, the US Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) yesterday released its analysis of the draft American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA).  Here is a copy of the full analysis, or if you prefer, the summary.

What is most interesting to me, as the NY Times reported, the E.P.A.’s analysis suggests that under the draft plan, the share of low-carbon and zero-carbon energy sources — including renewables like wind and solar, as well as nuclear and carbon-capture plants — would rise to 26 percent of the nation’s energy mix by 2030, and could reach 46 percent by 2050. Without the policy, that share would remain at a steady 14 percent, the E.P.A. estimated. 

In short, the ACESA would be an incredible boon to the renewable energy sector in the United States, and I would contend for Canada as well, for two principal reasons. First, the draft Act provides for carbon offsets to be obtained from both domestic and international sources. Good news for Canada. Second, any US climate change legislation would certainly have to be followed to a great extent in Canada. I just can't imagine a US carbon regulated marketplace allowing trade with an non-carbon regulated Canadian market.

Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, we must understand that the US Congress is currently examining the draft legislation, and in all likelihood, the draft ACESA will be watered down by the special interests. But the renewable energy sector in Canada would be well served to follow the progress of this Act because its passing will mean a tremendous amount to our renewable energy sector, especially for the offset market but also for energy exports.  At minimum, Canadian companies looking to trade with the US, will have to comply with the new US carbon standards and regulations. 

Carbon Tax, Cap'n Trade and the BC Election

With the BC Provincial election less than a month away, the Government's existing carbon tax has stirred up quite a bit of controversy here.  I won't get too deep into the politics of it, but if you are interested, I recommend that you check out ZeroCarbonCanada, which has some excellent coverage on the carbon tax from an environmentalists perspective.

While it may seem remarkable to see the broad coverage that the BC carbon tax is now receiving, from the recent editorial by the National Post to the New York Times, but it must be understood that BC's carbon tax is seen by many as a test market for the ability of regional governments (ie, Provincial or State) to impose direct climate change legislation, such as a carbon tax, rather than the more indirect cap and trade system.  A carbon tax, because it is so easily understood compared to a cap and trade system, is also the more politically risky of the two. So, if the BC Government is not returned to the legislature on May 12, it will be viewed by many as a failure of its carbon tax legislation and you can be sure it will be a very long time before any government anywhere tries to introduce a carbon tax.  Hence, the BC election is important for many reasons, especially with respect to climate change legislation.

Currently, the BC carbon tax is relatively mild, at $10 per tonne, but it will be increased each year for the next three years, to $30 per tonne on July 1, 2012.  A good start, but not especially significant in terms of lifestyle changing.  I think $200 per tonne would make that happen in a big way. Also, BC's carbon tax is "revenue neutral" meaning, the tax is offset by a reduction in taxes. It is expected to bring in revenues of $1.85 billion over three years. For some real bite, I would like to see the carbon tax revenues earmarked for GHG saving initiatives, like personal solar, home eco-energy retrofits or even the infrastructure required for electric cars.

While the underlying legislation exists in BC for a cap and trade system, it is not yet operating. And without regional cooperation, it would be entirely ineffective for British Columbia to go it alone with the market-based carbon trading system. This process is underway through the Western Climate Initiative, of which British Columbia is a partner.  However, given the complexities of creating a brand new market-based commodity trading system through the myriad of bureaucracies, both north and south of the border, any regional or national cap and trade system would likely not be operating for another 3-5 years. I just can't imagine it getting done any sooner than that.

Politically, it may be easier to advocate cap and trade now, but practically, it is not easy to put this scheme into action. So, right now, the easiest way to encourage people to reduce their carbon use is a carbon tax. Ideally, 100% of the revenues generated by the carbon tax and, later, the cap and trade system in British Columbia, would go to funding research and development, and/or other incentives, for the clean tech and renewable energy industries in the Province. Only then, would there be some real economic (and job creating) benefit for industries which by their very nature are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  And if that is the case, people just might not mind paying the tax.

The BC Energy Plan: Report on Progress

Last week, the BC Government released a report on progress of its 2007 BC Energy Plan.  The report shows just how far the Province has come in a little over 2 years since the introduction of the BC Energy Plan and demonstrates the Province's environmental leadership and many initiatives in the clean energy sector.

Some of the renewable energy specific highlights in the report include:

The Province should be properly recognized for doing many of the right things to encourage the development of a green economy on many different fronts throughout British Columbia. While there is much work still to be done, the foundation has been laid and businesses have stepped up and invested millions of dollars, and created thousands of jobs as a result of the Energy Plan. So, yes, a green focused economy works very well for British Columbia.

First Nations vs IPP Critics, Electric Cars, BC Net Imports or Exports and the Oslo Experience

Two BC First Nations Lash Out at IPP Critics.The Shishálh Nation (Sechelt) and Klahoose First Nation recently sent a scathing letter to six organizations which have been vocal in their opposition to independent power projects located within the Nations' traditional territories.

While severely critical of the tactics employed by the opponent groups, the March 20, 2009 letter also re-affirms that, as the historical stewards of their traditional lands, First Nations are quite involved in the environmental review process of IPP projects located within their tranditional territories. The letter says essentially "back-off critics, we have this under control. And show us our proper (and court ordered) respect". I can definitely see their point. There is no group better situated to act as environmental watchdog on IPP projects, which are typically located in more remote communities, than the various First Nations. So, I think it's important to listen to what is being said here. See also the Vancouver Sun's recent article on the subject.

BC to Pioneer New Electric Car: BC Hydro, the Province, the City of Vancouver and Mitsubishi Canada today announced that the i MiEv, the first production-ready, highway capable electric car will be on BC streets before the end of 2009.  It all starts with leadership and BC Hydro and the City of Vancouver are doing a great job of it with this technology. If electric cars are going to be the way of the future (which I believe they are), it is going to take considerable community cooperation to install the massive infrastructure required. Working together on projects such as this one, will only serve to hasten the advent of the electric car age.  I think that the i MiEv is a very slick car. I can't wait to get one.

Is BC an net importer or exporter of electricity? University of British Columbia Professor George Hoberg and Forestry student Christoper Mallon tackled this interesting question by analyzing data from numerous sources and they made some interesting finds. You can download the report here. The conclusion: it depends on the year, but the trend for the Province as a whole (not simply just BC Hydro) is towards net importing.

Oh, those (maybe not so) crazy Euros.  Now, we all can't be building wind farms and run-of-river projects can we? Sometimes green energy can be a plain nasty business. Check out what Oslo, Norway will soon be using to power their public transit system. Lovely. And cheap too! 

Meanwhile...South of the Border: Introducing The American Clean Energy and Security Act

President Obama promised a commitment to green energy, and today, the United States Committee on Energy and Commerce delivered, through the introduction of new federal clean energy legislation that, according to the press release, "will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution."  

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA) is still in the draft stage, but it certainly looks promising, and I must admit to a bit of envy of our American friends and their progressive legislators.  Here is the Discussion Draft Summary (click to download) which is definitely worth reading (all I can say is wow!).  The New York Times' Green Inc. blog weighs in on the reaction to the controversial legislation.

The ACESA will focus on four principle areas:

  1. Clean Energy: which includes renewable energy load requirements at 6% in 2012 and a whopping 25% in 2025, carbon capture and sequestration, clean fuels and vehicles, smart grid and electricity transmission.
  2. Energy Efficiency: which includes new building and appliance standards, energy rebates, new fuel and emissions standards, and national energy efficiency standards.
  3. Reducing Global Warming Pollution: which includes a market-based program of "allowances" and "offsets" for electric utilities, oil companies, large industrial sources and other entities (looks alot like cap and trade), steps to preventing international deforestation and the introduction of additional greenhouse gas standards.
  4. Transitioning to a Clean Energy Economy: which includes measures to ensure domestic competitiveness in the form of rebates for companies which produce commodities that are traded globally, the promotion of green jobs, consumer assistance, export of clean tech and a high level response to global warming.

In Canada, we can't even begin to compare our green energy legislation to the Americans, there is definitely nothing like the proposed ACESA, which is definitely too bad, but perhaps also a goal for our country's leaders.  For some recent Canadian context, the federal government has just invested $140M with the major oil companies for carbon-capture projects (ugh!). In addition, the feds have not renewed the very successful (and green economy stimulating) Canadian ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program

In all, it remain to be seen what will become of the surely to be ACESA, but judging by the broad reach of the proposed legislation, the Obama Administration means business when it comes to the green economy. One thing is abundantly clear - the United States sees clean energy, energy efficiency and fighting climate change as part of the new world order and critical to the future of America. This leadership is something Canadians should recognize and the smart ones will harness the momentum from south of the border and work to create our own carbon-reduced green energy economy.  The green energy technology revolution:  you can't stop it, you can only hope to contain it.

The Environmental Case for Green Energy in BC

Check out Tzeporah Berman's blog post today on ZeroCarbonCanada. She makes a compelling case for the green economy in BC and refutes the backlash against green power with thoughtful arguments.  Powerful stuff.  Here's a quote from the post: 

We specifically need to follow the best practices of every other jurisdiction in the world that is having success in decreasing dependence on fossil fuels and building a green economy including Ontario (with its admirable new Clean Energy Act, widely supported by business, labour, environmentalists, farmers…), Manitoba, Germany and now even the U.S. under the Obama administration — by supporting renewable energy companies (a.k.a.: Independent Power Producers). 

The Green Zamboni - a Canadian icon fights climate change

No more coughing on fumes between floods at the local rink.  Everyone's favourite ice cleaning machine has gone green. More battery powered electric zamboni's will be resurfacing local and NHL rinks next season, which is good news for hockey players, skaters and the environment. 

As the Vancouver Sun reported last week, a Canadian company, Resurfice Corp. which makes electric ice-resurfacers was awarded a contract by the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee to supply the 2010 Winter Olympic Games with 20 zero-emission ice cleaners for use at various games venues. Bring on the green Olympics!

Currently, the Montreal Canadiens are the only NHL team using an electric zamboni. The Vancouver Canucks will take delivery of two zero-emission Olympia model next year to resurface GM Place, replacing their two $90,000 propane powered ice-cleaning machines with new $170,000 battery-powered electric models. Reportedly, the new machines use about 25 cents worth of energy per flood, compared with $3 - $3.50 for propane or natural gas machines.  On a full charge, the electric machines can handle approximately 30 rink floods.

It's the little things that add up in the fight against climate change. This is just another example of changing commonly used vehicles to electric power and reducing greenhouse gas emissions without too much personal inconvenience.  Who knows, but perhaps it's been the zamboni fumes keeping the Canucks from the Stanley Cup all these years.