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.

Feel free to follow me on twitter.

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.

If you are so inclined, you can follow me on Twitter.

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.

Be sure to follow me or the Megawatt Blog on Twitter.

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'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.

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.

BC's Green Energy Advisory Task Force

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

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

Update: BCUC Section 5 Transmission Inquiry - On Hold

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

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

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

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

You can follow me and Megawatt on Twitter.

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.

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

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.

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...

Google PowerMeters Coming Soon

The world's favourite search engine and green energy proponent has just launched the Google PowerMeter, a Google gadget that can show consumers their personal electricity consumption right on a home or work computer. Relying on installed "smart meters" as a data source, customers will soon be able to simply log-in from home, work or wherever and check out their home's electricity use. It will also be possible to link through iGoogle, if you are so inclined.

To date, only 8 utilities have signed up with Google to participate in the PowerMeter program, with many more expected. In Canada, only Toronto Hydro has partnered with Google on this initiative, where 600,000 residential smart meters have already been installed. Here is the Toronto Star's story on the subject. Initially, only 1,000 Torontonians will have access, but nevertheless, it appears to be a great energy management device which will most certainly gain more users.

It is the little things like this (and macro-measures like peak time electricity pricing) where people will learn to appreciate their daily electricity footprint and the costs associated with that usage. And once people understand and see that, only then will conservation reach the tipping point and lead to measurable changes in our overall electricity use. So well done Google - this is very cool. I knew we could count on you for something innovative like this.

Hydro-Québec: Canada's Power Export King

The Globe and Mail reported that the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today approved a funding arrangement for the construction of a major transmission line that will cross into the United States from Quebec to become part of the U.S. energy grid.  FERC has even agreed to exclude the cost of the 1,200 MW transmission line from the rates charged to consumers.

Essentially, this means that FERC has, for the first time, recognized Hydro-Québec's hydroelectricity as a "clean" source of energy, meaning Quebec can now participate in the Obama clean energy policy and help New England move away from gas-fired power.

This new development certainly helps British Columbia's prospects in exporting electricity to the California market. Now, all BC has to do is woo the Californians.

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.

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.

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). 

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.