Canada High Court Decision Impacts Energy Project Development

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) by unanimous decision on June 26, 2014 in the case of Tsilhqot’ in Nation v. British Columbia declared for the first time “Aboriginal title” in Canada for the Tsilhqot’in Nation over tract of land in the interior of British Columbia. This case furthers a long line of decisions on Aboriginal rights and title.

In Tsilhqot’in, the SCC prescribes the meaning of Aboriginal title and articulates new tests for establishing it. The decision lacks clarity on the practical application of its ruling. The result, at least in the short run, is uncertainty, and additional clarity from the courts will be required. In the meantime, if major projects are to proceed, a much higher level of cooperation among First Nations, government and project proponents will be required.

In brief, Aboriginal title confers on the group that holds it the exclusive right to decide how the land is used and the right to benefit from those uses, subject to the restriction that the uses must be consistent with communal ownership of the interest and must assume the continued enjoyment of the land by future generations. Government infringement of Aboriginal title is theoretically possible in certain circumstances, but court challenges on this aspect are likely to abound.

The implications of the case are significant and the impacts cannot yet be determined. It seems clear however, that in addition to observing established duties of consultation and accommodation, it will be prudent for governments, going forward, to obtain consent of each First Nation which has a potential Aboriginal title claim in respect of Crown lands which are proposed for development or in respect of a disposition of any interest is proposed in British Columbia.

Further analysis of the decision and its impact on the BC energy sector to follow.

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BC Hydro's Integrated Resource Plan Released

Today, at long last, BC Hydro released its intergrated resource plan. 

BC Hydro advises on its website that it has been accepted by Government.

Click here for a link to the full IRP.

Notable is the inclusion of a Clean Energy Strategy [pdf] which outline's BC Hydro's strategy to support the province's clean energy sector and promote clean energy opportunities for First Nations communities.

More analysis to come....

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.

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Wind Energy Development in British Columbia Lags Rest of Canada

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) released a map showing 7,051 MW of installed wind energy capacity across Canada. According to CanWEA, the top three wind generating provinces are: Ontario (2,366 MW), Quebec (1,866 MW) and Alberta (1,117 MW).

British Columbia lags the rest of Canada with only 3 operating wind projects (Bear Mountain, Dokie Ridge, and Quality) comprising a paltry 390 MW.  More are on the way however. Cape Scott (100 MW) is expected to come online soon and Tumbler Ridge and Meikle were awarded EPA's with BC Hydro under the 2008 clean power call.

Recently, some new major wind projects in British Columbia were announced. EDP Renewables, TimberWest and T'Sou-ke First Nation have plans to develop a 300 MW wind projects on southern Vancouver Island. This single project would almost double existing wind capacity in the province. An editorial from the Victoria Times-Colonist considers the project worth a closer look.

In addition, EDF EN Canada and West Moberly First Nation  announced three proposed wind projects in the Peace River area totalling more than 500 MW of capacity. None of the recently announced wind projects have EPA's however.

Electricity wise, British Columbia is much like the Province of Quebec, with large-hydro supplying most of the power. Quebec has embraced wind energy finding its large-hydro system complimentary to electricity generated from wind.

Advances in technology have made the cost of wind energy lower than ever.  Demand for modern emission free electricity is growing. In British Columbia, experienced global wind developers have partnered with local First Nations with expectations of seeing the province soon catch up to the rest of Canada.  

With British Columbia on the brink of unprecedented industrial growth to be led by the natural gas sector, adding more low cost wind energy to the province's clean energy mix will provide not only long term value to BC Hydro ratepayers but also a low carbon hedge against the high carbon emissions of the natural gas sector. The time is right. Wind energy makes sense for British Columbia.

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Updated BC IPP Supply Map

Earlier this week, BC Hydro released an update in respect of the independent power producers(IPPs) currently supplying electricity to BC Hydro and those projects with EPAs but still under development. 

Keep in mind that the projects BC Hydro lists as IPPs include: Rio Tinto Alcan's hydro project, various forestry company biomass projects and the Waneta Expansion (not your garden variety IPPs, but certainly, "independent" of BC Hydro).

For your information: 

1. BC Hydro IPP supply map;

2. List of IPPs currently supplying electricity to BC Hydro; and

3. List of IPPs with projects in development,

(each current to October, 2013).

Renewable Energy To Meet BC Premier's Objectives

The prospect of new mines, natural gas drilling and the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has the Province of British Columbia on the brink of a period of unprecedented growth in the energy and natural resources sector.

In May, the BC Liberal Party under the leadership of Premier Christy Clark was elected on a platform of jobs and the economy. But what might have been missed in all of the hoopla is the Premier's subtle yet impressive desire to achieve her objectives with the help of the Province's clean and renewable energy sector, as evidenced by her letters to her cabinet ministers.

Shortly after the Premier appointed the new cabinet in June, she sent out distinct mandate letters to each of her ministers which set out her priorities for government and listed specific initiatives for each Ministry.

In reading the mandate letters, it is clear what the Premier had in mind for several of her energy sector Ministers. She sees the renewable energy sector playing an important role in the growth of the Province. And why not. For years, the industry has a proven track record for delivering cost-effective clean electricity in all areas of the Province with support from First Nations. For the British Columbia renewable energy industry and First Nations alike, this is most welcome support from the Premier.

Below are some of the key excerpts from the Premier's ministerial mandate letters:

Natural Gas Development (Minister Coleman)

Ministerial Initiative No. 3 - "Maximize the use of clean power in LNG projects while preserving provincial revenue generation opportunities."  Perhaps a nod to electric drive compression for LNG plants.

Energy (Minister Bennett)

Ministerial Initiative No. 8 - "Work with the Clean Energy sector to ensure that there remains significant opportunities for renewable energy companies to provide power to British Columbia."  No need to look too far, providing electricity to new mines, natural gas extraction in the northeast and the LNG industry would definitely count as a "significant opportunity" for the clean energy sector.

Environment (Minister Polak)

Ministerial Initiative No. 5 - "Working with the Minister of Natural Gas Development, ensure that LNG operations in British Columbia are the cleanest in the world."  Another not so subtle hint at electric drive compression for LNG plants powered by renewable energy.

Aboriginal (Minister Rustad )

Ministerial Initiative No. 3 - "Work with BC First Nations that are impacted by natural gas extraction, pipelines or LNG facilities to ensure they are provided with the ability to participate in this generational opportunity."  All renewable energy projects in the Province involve First Nations, so building more wind, small hydro, solar or even geothermal projects, would naturally allow First Nations to participate in the opportunity.

If you connect the dots it is not hard to conclude that clean and renewable (greenhouse gas free) energy, a natural resource of which British Columbia has an abundance, is the means for the various Ministers to meet many of the Premier's objectives.  

Now, if planners can stay away from falling victim to short-termism, today's opportunity, like the large hydro-electric dam system and transmission network built decades ago, will provide a lasting legacy for generations to come.  I am certain it was not easy back then and it certainly will not be straightforward today. But building the mining and LNG industry while maximizing the Province's renewable energy resources can certainly be accomplished with strong leadership. The Ministers are charged, and as the mandate letters say: "now it's time to deliver."

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BC Government Delays BC Hydro's Long Term Forecast

Today, the BC Government announced that it has once again delayed the delivery of BC Hydro's Integrated Resource Plan to Cabinet until August 3, 2013 due to uncertainty of the electricity requirements for the prospective liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects to be located in northern British Columbia. The announcement stated that Government, BC Hydro and LNG proponents are currently negotiating electricity-supply agreements. The good news for the IPP sector is that the use of electricity is under serious consideration.

The potential size of the LNG load is extraordinarily large.  Yet the current electricity service to the region is insufficient to meet the potential demand. From what we know, energy/electricity supply decisions at Kitimat and Prince Rupert have not been made. There are options here; some low-carbon, some not so much. But because of the long lead time needed to meet the electricity supply requirements, careful planning must take place before the big decisions are made. But at this point in time, no prospective LNG proponent has the necessary agreements in place to start construction of the LNG facilities. The great BC LNG infrastructure build-out won't get started until the planning is done and big decisions are made.

With this new industry, the BC Government has the opportunity and is truly in a unique position to create a lasting legacy for the North, for the regional First Nations and the entire Province of British Columbia.  But leadership here is critical. And, most importantly, the Province must have a development plan that addresses GHG emissions, environmental stewardship and development of legacy infrastructure.  Giving BC Hydro some additional time to submit its 20 year supply/demand forecast is a good decision given the current uncertainty of the potential massive load in the North and the general enthusiasm for realistic load forecasts.

The big question is: whether the outcome of the discussions between Government, BC Hydro, and LNG proponents for the supply of electricity pre-determines the contents of the ultimate IRP?

BC Clean Energy (IPP) Guidebook 2011 Version

In the Draft Integrated Resource Plan released this week, BC Hydro forecasts that "BC's electricity demand is expected to increase by about 50% over the next 20 years."  That is not a small amount. And based on the recommended actions contained in the Draft IRP, it is logical to assume that this increased demand will be supplied, in part, by the development of new clean and renewable energy projects in British Columbia (wind, hydro, biomass, ocean, geothermal and solar). 

So for those looking to undertake the development of clean energy projects in British Columbia, here a link to the new 2011 updated British Columbia Clean Energy Guidebook [pdf] prepared by the BC Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations specifically for clean energy project proponents in the Province. 

The Guidebook provides excellent information on a variety of key project development matters including: 

  • Where to begin?
  • Permitting
  • Preparing a Development Plan
  • Hydro Power
  • Wind Power
  • Other Power (Bioenergy, ocean and geothermal)
  • Environmental Assessment
  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • First Nations Consultation
  • Transmission Interconnection

You will also find some important Q & A's on the Ministry's website.

BC Hydro Draft Integrated Resource Plan

Today, BC Hydro released the much anticipated draft Integrated Resource Plan - 2012 (IRP) (Executive Summary and draft IRP Discussion Guide) which is a long-term forecast on supply and demand for electricity in British Columbia.  Essentially, the IRP is to expected to be used as a key document for long-term electricity planning in the Province.

The draft report contains 14 recommended actions and is released to the public today for consultation until July 6, 2012. Then, sometime before December 2012, BC Hydro will submit the final IRP for approval by the BC Cabinet. People are invited to have a say at an IRP consultation event hosted by BC Hydro.

As expected, the draft IRP is long on measures to encourage energy conservation and efficiency but also includes a few recommendations for much needed infrastructure capital investment for both capacity (Revelstoke Dam upgrade) and transmission (Prince George to Terrace upgrade) purposes. The $7.9 Billion Site C Dam is proposed to move ahead with an expected online date of 2020. In the meantimne, the spot electricity market, the Canadian Entitlement and Burrard Thermal are recommended to used as energy supply gap fillers. 

For the BC renewable energy sector, the most noteworthy draft recommendation is:  

RECOMMENDED ACTION #8: Develop energy procurement options to acquire up to 2,000 gigawatt hours per year from clean energy producers for projects that would come into service in the 2016-2018 time period.

The prospect of new BC power calls is of course welcome news to the sector, but there is caution: (a) this is a draft IRP only; and (b) the draft IRP notes that any new electricity procurement decisions would made only when there is more certainty of the demand.  Most of the new power is expected from wind, run-of-river and biomass project as these are proven to be the lowest-cost options, but geothermal and ocean technologies may also be considered. The objective in the BC Clean Energy Act that the Province "generate 93% from clean or renewable sources" effectively prohibits new power from natural gas facilities, which is good news from a greenhouse gas emissions standpoint.

Much of the long term electricity load is contingent on the development of the proposed LNG export projects on BC's Northwest coast. If the LNG export facilities are built, the demand for electricity in the Province could exceed 25% of the existing BC Hydro load (based on an estimated 4 LNG plants at approximate use of 4,000 GWh/year each. For context, the current BC Hydro load is approximately 60,000 GWh/year). Decisions on the LNG export projects are still under consideration by the proponents, with some decisions expected before the end of the year.  

With bi-partisan political and First Nations support for the proposed LNG export projects, the British Columbia Government's $20 billion BC LNG Energy Strategy may yet be realized. And if so, be certain that it will be all hands on deck in British Columbia for the next few years to support this significant new energy intesive economic opportunity.

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British Columbia's New Energy Plan

Today, the BC Government announced another in a series of many energy plans and strategies. The 2012 Natural Gas Strategy actually puts energy front and centre for economic development in the Province. The policy is big on ideas, but short on details.

According to the Government, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is to be the key driver for the provincial economy for decades to come.  The global demand for liquefied natural gas is strong and BC's estimated natural gas reserves are substantial. Local First Nations have expressed support for LNG facilities and the pipelines that will bring the natural gas from the North. Nominating LNG as a pillar of the BC economy makes good sense. How the new energy plan is implemented is of course, critical.

For the BC renewable energy industry, growing the demand for electricity in the Province is a good thing. The important decision is how much of the new LNG development will be powered by renewable energy and how much will be from natural gas. The Gas Strategy seems to state that the first two LNG facilities in Kitimat, BC will be required to be fueled by renewable energy. The problem right now is the Province is short on renewable energy generation and even shorter on transmission.  Much needs to happen on both fronts before the Government's LNG objectives can be met.

Not to be forgotten are the Province's climate change goals.  Extracting and exporting more natural gas will put increased pressure on the Province's greenhouse gas emission objectives.

British Columbia is at a cross-road with respect to climate change policy and economic growth. The Province is blessed with an abundance of natural gas and buyers in Asia are willing to pay for it. At the same time, to its credit, the Province has laws which restrict GHG emissions. A clear and obvious hedge against GHG emissions is renewable energy. The challenge for the Province is to balance economic growth with a GHG intensive industry with its climate change laws.

Renewable energy will play an important role in the development of the Provincial economy. New electricity infrastructure, both generation and transmission, is critical to meet the opportunity presented to the Province.  Both mining for minerals and turning natural gas into liquefied form (LNG) for export, require massive amounts of energy. Meeting this new demand with renewable electricity with natural gas as a possible backup is smart fiscal and environmental policy.  GHG emissions are lower when electricity from renewable resources is used rather than natural gas to power the Province. 

In the coming days or months, we expect to see further details on the following issues:

  • The Province's definition of "clean".  Does this mean renewables only?
  • The BC Hydro grid. Is there sufficient electricity on the existing transmission grid for Apache Phase 1, Apache Phase 2 and Douglas Channel LNG facilities?
  • Carbon capture and storage. Really? Where?
  • Infrastructure Royalty Program Credits. Will this be available for electricity infrastructure (ie, new or upgraded transmission lines) ?
  • Self-sufficiency changes. Drought insurance is gone. What now? Increase in imports?  

Provided development of the natural gas fields and the mines in the North are in compliance with world class environmental practices, in cooperation and participation with First Nations and local communities, British Columbia is well positioned to be a major player in the new world economy. Some new thinking on old ideas is needed. But let's get it done while the opportunity is there.

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Updated BC IPP Supply Map

Further to our April blog post, today, BC Hydro released some updated information regarding the supply of electricity from BC independent power producers (BC IPPs).

Included in the release is the following: 

1. A map of current and future BC IPP projects;

2. A list of current BC IPPs supplying BC Hydro; and

3. A list of IPP projects currently under development in British Columbia,

(each current to October 1, 2011).

This excellent information shows the broad range of the existing BC IPPs facilities and the significant number of projects still in development in the Province.

According to the BC Hydro information, 70 BC IPPs (non-BC Hydro) are currently operating and supplying BC Hydro with 12,599 GWh of annual supply and 3,209 MW of capacity, from a wide variety of power facilities. The first BC IPP listed is from 1985 - Coats IPP, a small run-of-river hydro project on Gabriola Island.

Projects under development by BC IPPs in the Province (each with a power purchase agreement from BC Hydro) comprise of 7,697 GWh of annual supply and 2,132 MW of capacity. The 39 development projects are derived from the 2003 Green Power Generation Call (1), the 2006 Open Power Call (13), the 2008 Bioenergy Call (1), the 2008 Standing Offer Program (2) and the 2008 Clean Power Call (22).

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.

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.

British Columbia's IPP Supply (with updated map)

According to information released today from BC Hydro, as of April 1, 2011, BC Hydro has 68 electricity purchase agreements (EPAs) with independent power producers (IPPs) [ie, non-BC Hydro] whose projects are delivering power to BC Hydro. 

The projects are located all over British Columbia and generate 12,524 GWh annually of mostly clean electrictiy. This represents 3,183 MWs of capacity and comes from the following fuel sources:

  • non-storage hydro (run-of-river)
  • gas-fired thermal
  • biomass
  • storage hydro  (dams)
  • biogas
  • municipal solid waste
  • energy recovery generation
  • wind

Here is the IPP Supply Map (current to April 1, 2011) for project locations.

For more information on each of the projects, check out the IPP Supplier List  (current to April 1, 2011).

By way of background, BC Hydro supplies British Columbia with anywhere between 42,000 and 52,000 GWh of electricity annually and has a generating capacity of approximately 11,345 MWs from its various hydroelectric, gas-fired thermal and diesel generating facilities. 

By these numbers, IPPs provide approximately a quarter of British Columbia's electricity and add an additional five clean fuel technologies to the system.  But it's important to keep in mind that the IPP supply list includes such generating facilities as the Rio Tinto Alcan dam in Kitimat (896 MW), the Brilliant dams (120MW), the Arrow Lakes dam (185MW) and the Vancouver Island gas generation facility (275 MW), and not all IPPs on the list would properly be considered clean and renewable.

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BC Hydro Revises Standing Offer Program

BC Hydro provided a welcomed boost to the British Columbia clean energy industry by announcing today that it has now completed its two year review and implemented a new standing offer program for clean, renewable energy projects in British Columbia.

Similar to a feed-in-tariff, eligible clean energy projects, 15 MW or under, can prescribe to a set price for delivered electricity and other key project terms.  Specific eligibility requirements and the program rules for BC Hydro's Standing Offer Program can be found here (pdf).

This is a good start to the year for BC Hydro and the clean energy industry in British Columbia.

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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.

You can also follow me and the Megawatt Blog on Twitter.

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.
 
For updates, you can subscribe to Megawatt (see right hand panel) or even follow me and the Megawatt blog on Twitter.

Breaking News: Clean Power Call Awards

Just announced by BC Hydro, 19 projects have been selected for an award of an electricity purchase agreement under BC Hydro's Clean Power Call.

More to come.

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.
 
Remember, you can follow me and Megawattblog on Twitter.
 
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: 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: 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.

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's Bear Mountain Adds 102 MW to Canada's Current Installed Wind Energy Capacity

Following up on my earlier blog post, the Bear Mountain Wind Park is now officially open, online and generating electrons to the British Columbia power grid, bringing Canada's total current installed wind energy capacity to 2,956 MW.

The $200 million Bear Mountain project located near Dawson Creek, BC was completed on time and on budget. With a total capacity of 102 MW, the park will produce enough energy to power most of BC's South Peace region. Under the Government of Canada's ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program, the project will receive a one cent per kilowatt-hour incentive over the next ten years, in accordance with the terms of the agreement. The project includes green attributes, which AltaGas can trade or sell to third parties. One of those third party purchaser's is Bullfrog Power.
 
The Canadian Wind Energy Association recently made the following announcements regarding the development of wind energy in Canada:
  • 523 MW of new installed capacity in 2008;
  • 2009 will be a record year for wind energy development in Canada with new installed capacity from wind energy projects totalling 790 MW; and
  • By the end of 2009, Canada will have 3,159 MW of installed capacity with wind developments operating in every province for the first time.
Click here for a map of Canada's current installed wind capacity (as of November, 2009).
 
With 19 wind projects bid into BC Hydro's 2008 Clean Power Call, British Columbians can expect more of their electricity to come from the natural power of the wind.
 
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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. 

Remember, you can follow me and Megawatt on Twitter.

Canadian Geothermal Energy Industry A Global Player

Last week's sold out geothermal energy workshop in Toronto organized by CanGEA brought national attention to the Canadian geothermal energy sector. Gary Thompson, President of Sierra Geothermal Power Corp. and Ross Beaty, Chairman and CEO of Magma Energy Corp., both Vancouver based companies, were interviewed in Toronto on the Business News Network and discussed the global opportunities presented by geothermal energy. Here is the video link for the very interesting discussion.

In addition, the Globe and Mail reported that recent financings and significant US government incentives are fuelling increased interest in the global geothermal energy industry. In Canada, unlike in the United States and around the world however, utility grade geothermal energy projects do not yet exist despite excellent resources and a willing industry.  The development of geothermal energy in British Columbia and Canada is challenged in part by the existing regulatory framework and the complex permitting process.  With continued attention to this clean and green base load energy source, the Canadian geothermal energy industry hopes to overcome present barriers and create a strong geothermal industry in this country.

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California's New Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard - Good News For BC's Green Energy Exports

On Saturday, California's aggressive renewable energy standard passed in the State Legislature.  Governor Schwarzenegger will veto the Bill (SB 14) and instead signed an executive order on Tuesday this week which will require California utilities to obtain 33% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020 (the most stringent standard in the US). The long awaited and much debated Bill failed to gain the Governor's signature for a number of reasons, but most importantly to those of us outside the State, because of the so-called "buy California" provisions contained in the Bill, which would have prohibited California utilities from purchasing out-of-state power from such places as British Columbia.
 
With the executive order, the Governor, among other things, eliminated from the Bill the so-called "protectionist policies" which in essence allows California utilities to purchase electricity from outside the state. This is extremely positive news to renewable energy industry in BC as the Governor's executive order follows quite nicely with the BC government's recent throne speech which highlighted the province's export potential for renewable energy generated within British Columbia. Now it appears that BC will have a willing buyer for its surplus green energy in the California state utilities. Next up, signing some EPA's with the California utilities and building the transmission infrastructure.
 
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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.

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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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.

Continue Reading...

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

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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.

BC Hydro to Aquire 1/3 Stake in Trail's Waneta Dam

Today, BC Hydro announced its plans to acquire a direct 1/3 ownership interest in Teck Resources owned 493 MW Waneta Dam for $825 million by signing a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Teck.

As the BC Hydro press release states, subject to due diligence and regulatory approval, the BC Hydro purchase will secure approximately 1,000 GWh of energy per year of firm energy for BC Hydro, or enough to power approximately 100,000 homes annually.  This energy, which is surplus to the needs of Teck's nearby smelter located in Trail, BC, has historically been sold on the open market, primarily to US buyers. 

"The agreement will go a long way towards helping us meet the B.C. Energy Plan goal of making the province electricity self-sufficient by 2016," said Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. "Equally important, this agreement will provide cost-effective energy from a publicly owned asset, helping to keep our province's electricity rates among the lowest in North America.

I don't know if this acquisition says more about Teck's need for cash or BC Hydro's need for more firm power, but at $825,000 per GWh, it is a rather expensive purchase for BC Hydro and a good deal for Teck. I wonder if BC Hydro will continue to sell it to US buyers through Powerex or keep the electrons here in BC. Bottom line - BC Hydro has more firm power to use or trade.

BTW - Megawatt is now on twitter

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 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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Geothermal: Canada's Hottest Natural Energy Resource

Last week, along with approximately 150 others, I attended the first ever CanGEA Geothermal Energy Conference at the new convention centre in Vancouver. It was a tremendous three day event, consisting of a workshop and open house, an industry day and a technical program. By all indication, the geothermal industry is well served by CanGEA. 

Geothermal energy, not to be confused with its cousin geo-exchange, is capable of utility-scale generation of electricity.  What is unique (and great) about geothermal energy is that it is low-impact, base load (ie, non-intermittent), cost-effective and widely available. It really is the "greenest" of all renewable power.  About 10 GW of geothermal electric capacity is installed around the world as of 2007, generating 0.3% of global electricity demand. The US, Philippines and Indonesia are the global leaders in installed geothermal electric capacity.  And because of its geographic location on earth, British Columbia is home to some world class geothermal energy resources. 

While there are no geothermal facilities currently generating electricity in the province, I am aware of two BC publicly traded companies currently conducting geothermal exploration in British Columbia Western GeoPower has operations which are close to commercial viability at South Meager Creek (north of Pemberton). It is also developing a 35MW geothermal plant in the Geysers region of northern California.  Sierra Geothermal Power Corp. recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Da'naxda'xw/Awaetlala Nation to develop geothermal power projects on their traditional lands, covering approximately 800,000 hectares (2 million acres) in the Knight Inlet area of British Columbia.

In my view, it is time that British Columbia and Canada (there are also good resources in the North) catch up to the rest of the world and put geothermal energy on the renewable energy to do list. The opportunities for this home based green energy natural resource are too good to pass up. Now is the time to move towards CanGEA's goal of 5,000 MW of installed geothermal energy resources by 2015. I truly believe with a little help, such as the federal government renewing the EcoEnergy for Renewable Power program, this can be done.

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. 

Integrating Variable Electricity Generation into the Grid

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the international regulatory authority for electric reliability of the bulk power system in North America, yesterday released a special report entitled "Accommodating High Levels of Variable Generation", which calls for changes to the way the North American bulk power system is planned and operated.  For a quick read, here is a copy of the executive summary

The NERC special report was drafted by a committee of some 50 industry experts, including grid operators, utilities, wind and solar manufacturers, trade associations and government authorities across North America. Some of the report’s specific recommendations include:

  • Planning practices and methods require change — The integration of high levels of variable generation will require system planners to change planning practices, procedures, methods, and tools to ensure reliability in the coming years. Incorporating resources located at the distribution-level (such as roof-top solar panels and “smart grid” technologies) into bulk power system planning studies is a key area in need of improvement, along with integrated analysis of transmission and resources in probabilistic planning studies.
  • Grid operators require new tools and practices — Ensuring the efficient, effective, and reliable use of variable resources will require a number of changes in system operations centers, including incorporating consistent and accurate forecasting of daily and seasonal variable generation output and advanced control techniques into daily and real-time practices. A comprehensive regional analysis of the operational impacts of proposed system changes (i.e., larger balancing areas or participation in wider-area balancing management) is also recommended.
  • Industry encouraged to pursue research and development and establish appropriate market signals — A renewed focus on research and development for new system models, continued improvement of variable generation technologies, and advanced planning techniques is needed. The report also recommends that organized markets consider instituting mechanisms designed to ensure the availability of adequate flexible balancing resources. Appropriate requirements for generation ramping requirements, minimum generation levels, and shorter operations scheduling intervals should also be considered.
  • Policy makers encouraged to remove barriers to transmission development and consider reliability — The report encourages policy makers to accelerate transmission siting, approve permits for needed facilities, and otherwise remove barriers to needed transmission development. It also encourages policy makers to consider the opportunities and issues associated with proposed system changes, the importance of coordinated planning, and the impacts of variable generation on wide-area system reliability.

In the context of the BCUC's Section 5 Inquiry on BC's long term electricity transmission requirements, this report comes at a most appropriate time.  There is no doubt that intermittent, or variable, electricity poses a challenge connecting to BC's heritage electricity grid, so it is critical that these issues are considered, at a precisely the time when more and more electrons from renewable power, like wind and solar, are seeking access to the grid.  

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! 

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.

Exporting Power: The Eastern Canadian Way

While British Columbia festers in the rhetoric of the export vs import debate, two other Canadian Provinces have completed a historic transmission agreement to facilitate the export of electricity to the United States.

Quebec and Newfoundland announced today that Quebec has agreed to allow Newfoundland's Nalcor Energy to transport or "wheel" its excess electricity (generated by the Upper Churchill Hydroelectric station) through Hydro-Quebec's power lines to the Canada-U.S. Border, where Emera Energy Inc. (a Nova Scotia Power subsidiary) will market the Newfoundland born electrons to the Americans for profit.

This is being called "historic" because never before has Quebec permitted Newfoundland to transmit its own power through Quebec. What I see as historic is a Canadian Province publicly celebrating its excess green renewable energy and the prospect of exporting it to the Americans. No wonder, the 5 year deal is expected to generate between $40 and $80 million per year for Newfoundland. That will certainly keep the energy costs down at home.

My thoughts on the local export debate. Exporting its natural resources has been the backbone of this Province for as long as it's been around. Be it trees, coal, fish or natural gas (just to name a few), British Columbia has a enjoyed great many riches on the harvesting and export of its incredible natural endowment. Now, we have growing U.S. demand for our green electricity and the idea of developing and exporting this renewable natural resource is upsetting to some people? This just doesn't make sense, and is undeniably hypocritical. I suggest that we answer the call by developing our renewable energy resources, we keep what we need and sell the rest to the Americans. Simple, straightforward and the British Columbia way.

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.

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 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 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.

Recent Developments in Renewable Energy

Today, I comment on some news about renewable energy issues in British Columbia and in other parts of Canada, and a note about the Stockholm experience:

1. Electric Cars: Earlier this week, BC Hydro announced that it has initiated a study on the for development of electric car infrastructure.  This study is significant in my view because BC Hydro has for years downplayed the impact of possible future use of electric cars in British Columbia (perhaps based somewhat the market realities (ie, how many electric cars are there right now?) and somewhat on fear of the prospect (what will this mean to its aggressive DSM program).  Who knows, maybe we will see Shai Agassi's Better Place set up shop in British Columbia, similar to its recent move to Ontario. Here is the Vancouver Sun's report on the subject.  Stay tuned, there is certainly more to come on the subject, but kudos to BC Hydro for commissioning the study, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

2. IPP's on the offensive:  Last week, I attended a lunch sponsored by the Vancouver Board of Trade, which put four prominent members of the local IPP industry on stage to discuss the development of green energy in the Province.  The meeting was well attended and as the Vancouver Sun reported, the IPP industry faced the critics with their message - IPP's present huge economic opportunities for the Province but also undertake significant risk in doing so. Ratepayers do not share the risk of development and IPP's are the best option for bringing new green electricity generation to the Province.  The world is embracing a new green energy regime and the Province of British Columbia is uniquely blessed with suitable and substantial natural resources, which, with the help of private sector, can become a global leader in the field. What that means is jobs, economic prosperity and lower greenhouse gas emission. What's not to love about green energy?

3.  Green Energy Act:  The Province of Ontario introduced legislation to enact the Green Energy Act.  Ontario, primarily a fossil fuel and nuclear electricity based Province, is taking a bold new step towards renewable energy. Well done, Ontario (well, except the part about your nukes).

4. The Stockholm Story: I read an article recently in Canadian Business magazine, about the City of Stockholm and its aggressive plan to reduce GHG emissions.  Amazingly, the City has reduced GHG emissions to 3.5 tonnes per person in 2008, from seven tonnes per person in the early 1990s (when the City first started measuring emissions). A very interesting story, and definitely worth a read.  I wonder if something like this could happen here.

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

 

Continue Reading...

Generating Green Power and Jobs in BC: A video look at independent power production in British Columbia

For anyone who is curious about what the green power industry is doing in British Columbia, you need go no further.  Today, the Independent Power Producers Association of British Columbia (IPPBC) released a new video, entitled "Generating Green Power and Jobs in BC" which provides a unique look at the independent power production industry in BC. 

“The video contains ‘on location’ footage of run-of-river hydro, wind power, biomass, geothermal, and energy-recovery-generation projects around the province. It includes comments from ‘green collar’ IPP workers, mayors, First Nations project participants, energy expert Dr. Mark Jaccard and IPPBC Directors.” said Steve Davis, IPPBC President. 

You can view the very slick 10 minute IPPBC video by clicking here

I would guess that most people have never seen a biomass facility or run-of-river power plant, or even understood the complex process of making green energy, so I must commend IPPBC for undertaking the important but necessary task of educating the general public on the work of the IPP industry. 

In addition, for more information about independent power production in the Province, IPPBC has also prepared some excellent fact sheets on the following green energy topics (which we have included for your downloading pleasure):

Another Update: Clean Power Call - BC Hydro "Clarification" Letter

BC Hydro released a letter today which was filed with the BC Utilities Commission in connection with its 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP) and its recent evidentiary update with respect to target volume for the Clean Power Call.  You can read a copy of BC Hydro's January 12, 2009 letter here and check out the BC Hydro Clean Power Call website here.

January 15 Update:  The Globe and Mail reported today on BC Hydro's recent LTAP clarification letter. In the article, BC Hydro CEO Bob Elton confirmed BC Hydro's support for purchasing green power from independent power producers at cost-effective prices.  For now, it appears the proposed cut to the size of the Clean Power Call from 5,000 GWh/year to 3,000 GWh/year has been scuttled, at least in public documents it has. How much green power BC Hydro decides to purchase from the Clean Power Call remains to be seen - results from the Clean Power Call RFP are expected in the late Spring.

This is a very interesting olive branch letter; one that clearly reinforces the challenges BC Hydro faces in forecasting the Province's future power requirements in the current economic environment, while at the same time also supports renewable power and independent power producers in the Province. The low carbon economy is coming to British Columbia and what that means to the Province's electricity requirements is yet to be seen. There is no doubt that opportunities abound for clean power generation in British Columbia, and if the price is right, BC Hydro will be buying.

I wonder what happened over the past few weeks between the Crown and her power corporation.... 

In the news today - BC Hydro's LTAP Clean Power Call Cut

The Vancouver Sun reported today, in two separate articles, on BC Hydro's recent decision to reduce its long term acquisition of clean power.  You can read about the cause and effect of BC Hydro's decision here and the political and economic consequences for British Columbia here

Jan 8 Update. The Vancouver Sun followed up today with a full editorial on the subject of BC Hydro's decision to cut the Clean Power Call by 40%. 

I continue amazed at BC Hydro's decision to reduce the Call, and apparently, so are a lot of people. All in all, it is shaping up to be a very interesting next few months in British Columbia, with the BCUC decision on BC Hydro's LTAP (revision included) and the upcoming Provincial election, where the power game is most definitely at play. Stay tuned, there is sure to be plenty more to come.

In other news, British Columbia is not alone in its green power pain, as the Calgary Herald recently reported, many renewable energy businesses in other parts of Canada are feeling the pinch of the worldwide economic slowdown.  No surprise here:  lower oil prices and a tight credit market have proven not to be a friendly combination for renewable energy companies (or for most companies for that matter).

The good news is that the downturn is not expected to last forever. Renewables will once again be in high demand. The current down period may be seen as a due diligence and R&D opportunity to invest in new renewable technolgy, in industries where it is not yet commercially feasible for large scale electricity generation. I'm thinking specifically of solar and ocean power. Because once the economy turns, demand for power will increase, and those who are best situated to supply this new power, will find themselves ahead of the curve.

BC Bioenergy Call for Power - Phase One Results

BC Hydro today released the results of phase one of its Bioenergy Call for Power.  The first phase of the Call was for projects that are immediately viable and do not need new tenure from the Ministry of Forests and Range. The results stem from proposals submitted pursuant to an RFP issued February 6, 2008 by BC Hydro. 

In all, 4 bioenergy facilities will use forest-based biomass, including sawmill residue, logging debris, trees killed by mountain pine beetle, and other residual wood, to generate electricity. The four projects will generate a combined total of 579 gigawatt hours of electricity annually, or enough to power more than 52,000 homes. It's about time that these projects got off the ground.  As I've blogged before, renewable energy projects will definitely help the forest industry in the Province of British Columbia and by turning what would otherwise be waste into valuable electricity, the industry is doing its part in contributing to the Province's electricity self-sufficiency goals, while at the same time creating rural area jobs.

The four projects are:

  1. Canfor Pulp Ltd. Partnership's PGP Bio Energy Project in Prince George, BC;
  2. PG Interior Waste to Energy Ltd.'s proposal also in Prince George, BC;
  3. Domtar Pulp and Paper Products' Kamloops Green Energy Project in Kamloops, BC an
  4. Zellstoff Celgar Ltd. Partnership’s Celgar Green Energy Project in Castlegar, BC

Phase II of the Call is still in the development stage as BC Hydro is continuing to work with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources as well as the Ministry of Forests and Range in designing the next phase of the Call.  BC Hydro will continue to provide updates as more information is developed. You can check the BC Hydro website for more information. Here's the link for Phase II.

Update: Clean Power Call - List of Proposals

Today, BC Hydro released the list of proposals it received to its Clean Power Call RFP.

BC Hydro reports that it received 68 proposals from 43 registered proponents.  A total of 71 entities had previously registered as proponents with BC Hydro in August. In aggregate the 68 proposals represent a total firm energy output of approximately 17,000 GWh/year from 45 hydro projects, 19 wind projects, 2 waste heat projects, 1 biogas project, and 1 biomass project. 

This marks the end of the beginning for many proponents as the long road to actually supplying this new electricity to the grid will take years to come to fruition. Kudos to the BC renewable energy industry for bidding into a very difficult call, in extraordinarily challenging financial markets. Now the hard work begins with EPA's to be negotiated and BCUC to be convinced of the merits of the call.

Power Overload - BC Hydro's Clean Power Call Oversubscribed

Earlier this week, independent power producers in British Columbia responded overwhelmingly to BC Hydro's Clean Power Call, with over 17,000 total gigawatt hours being proposed in the RFP. BC Hydro intends to accept only 5,000 gigawatt hours (or enough electricity to power 500,000 homes). 

As the Vancouver Sun reported, independent power projects proposed to BC Hydro in the response to the Call include the expected run-of-river and wind, but also waste heat, biogas and biomass power projects, demonstrating the range of power sources available in the Province.

It is great to see independent power producers in the Province step up in significant numbers to provide British Columbians with a variety of clean, green and sustainable power options for their electricity. With the Call being oversubscribed, electricity consumers can be assured of competitive prices for new power as the Province moves towards self-sufficiency by 2016.

BC Hydro's timeline puts final evaluation and electricity purchase agreements awarded in mid-April to June 2009.

Major Transmission Investment in British Columbia

Earlier this week, BC Transmission Corporation ("BCTC") filed its Ten Year Capital Plan with the BC Utilities Commission, outlining $5.3 billion in expenditures to ensure British Columbians continue to benefit from reliable, clean and efficient electricity.

British Columbia requires significant transmission upgrades and new infrastructure to replace old transmission lines and to supply energy to the Province's growing population. With over 5,000 MWh expected to come online in the next five years, new and reliable transmission is critical. BCTC's investment will almost certainly help new power generation from independent power producers. For clean and renewable energy power producers, the Plan provides:

  • BCTC has a fundamental role in helping British Columbia become energy self-sufficient by 2016 through the interconnection of clean and renewable energy to the transmission grid.
     
  • $657 million over 10 years for interconnecting clean and renewable generation
    • Includes both projects underway and projects expected to be required to meet forecasted energy need in the Province.

Other highlights of the Plan include:

  1. BC's reliable electricity highway powering homes and businesses;
  2. Meeting the needs of B.C.'s growing communities for a secure and reliable supply of electricity; and
  3. Investing in innovation and new digital technologies.
          

IPPBC Annual Conference in Vancouver

The Independent Power Producers Association of British Columbia kicks off its 2008 Annual Conference tomorrow in Vancouver, BC.  As the independent power sector ramps up for the 2008 Clean Power Call with proposal submissions due to BC Hydro on November 25, 2008, you can be certain that the Clean Power Call will be the hot topic of conversation among the 500 plus delegates attending the 2 day conference.  But there are 3 other power calls from BC Hydro that will also garner some attention: the Bioenergy Call, the Standing Offer Program and the Remote Community Electrification Program.

The IPPBC 2008 Conference, attended by industry leaders, First Nations representatives, government officials and alternative energy entrepreneurs, will focus on two general areas: Calls and Context, and Bidding.  Day one of the conference will include panels addressing electricity, transmission and public policy, and project permitting.  Day two will focus on matters relating to bidding on, and construction, of IPP projects, First Nations and IPP's, project finance and a very interesting panel discussion on future electricity, such as electric vehicles, big batteries, ocean energy and renewable markets. 

With its vast river systems, geothermal fields, wind capacity, miles of coastline, developed forest and agricultural industries, British Columbia has significant natural resources to be a world leader in producing power from green sources.  With the recent calls to power, independent power producers are stepping up in great numbers to meet the increasing demand for alternative energy with tremendous determination and innovation. 

We will be attending the IPPBC Annual Conference and you can read our report about it on Megawatt later in the week.