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Keeping our day jobs under control

June 22, 2010

The past few weeks have been busy ones indeed for anyone following energy issues in B.C. 

We’ve seen passage of the new Clean Energy Act which pledges to open up an export market for B.C.’s renewable green energy resources in addition to making B.C. electricity self-sufficient.  

We’ve also seen the announcement of another Electricity Purchase Agreement (EPA) under BC Hydro’s drawn out Clean Power Call (CPC) process: Castle Mountain Hydro’s 6 megawatt Benjamin Creek Hydro project near McBride which will supply 27 gigawatt-hours of firm energy per year to BC Hydro.

The Castle Mountain Hydro project brings the total number of projects selected under the Clean Power Call to 26 with one more project still under consideration: namely, Box Canyon Hydro’s project near Port Mellon.

Several of us also attended an evening panel discussion of B.C. as a clean energy export powerhouse hosted by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at the Sheraton Wall Centre. 

And while keeping our day jobs under control, we’ve also been responding to a surge of misinformed letters and articles popping up around the province.   

Our co-spokesperson David Field responded to one of these misinformed letters wherein the author had claimed that B.C. is a net exporter of electricity (a common but incorrect claim made by opponents of green energy development in B.C.). 

In countering the misinformation, David cited Professor George Hoberg from UBC’s Department of Forest Resources Management whose research — as presented at the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions panel discussion — demonstrated very clearly that B.C. is now a 2 percent net importer of electricity in addition to BC Hydro being an even bigger net importer of electricity.

Here’s a copy of David’s letter which ran in the Burnaby News Leader last week:

Burnaby NewsLeader – Letters

B.C. is a net importer of electricity, group says

Published: June 18, 2010 1:00 PM

Re: B.C. doesn’t need Site C (Letters, NewsLeader, June 10)

Letter writer Jean Hicks is incorrect when she claims that B.C. is a net exporter of electricity.

B.C. is very clearly a net importer of electricity, and in the case of BC Hydro, a significant importer indeed. 

The question of whether B.C. is a net importer or net exporter of electricity recently attracted the attention of Professor George Hoberg of UBC’s Department of Forest Resources Management.  Professor Hoberg delved into the question—reviewing the available technical data—and from an objective academic perspective determined that B.C. as a whole is now a two percent net importer of electricity.

That net percentage is even greater for BC Hydro; and according to BC Hydro’s annual reports, last year was the ninth year out of the past 10 in which BC Hydro has been a net importer of electricity, with all indications pointing to this year being yet another net importation year for the organization.

B.C. can only be seen as a five percent “net exporter” of electricity—as Professor Hoberg determined in his analysis—if you lump in B.C.’s share of the electricity generated in the USA under the Columbia River Treaty along the Columbia River system. 

However, you cannot really consider electricity generated in the USA under the Columbia River Treaty to be an electricity export from B.C. Moreover, there is no direct transmission line from the Columbia River generating facilities to bring that electricity conveniently into B.C. for use as part of our domestic supply. 

As such, BC Hydro’s Powerex subsidiary has always sold B.C.’s share of the Columbia Treaty electricity on the American market, and in the process generated considerable revenue for the people of this province. The sales revenue generated by Powerex is one of the reasons why electricity rates in B.C. are so much lower than practically anywhere else in North America.  

Even if a transmission line to B.C. from the Columbia River generating plants was constructed, the electricity we would obtain would not be enough to match the growth in B.C.’s population over the next few decades. And the loss of Powerex sales revenue from B.C.’s share of the Columbia Treaty electricity would cause hydro rates in B.C. to go up accordingly.

Bottom line, we need to build more electricity-generating capacity in this province and we need to do so in a way that causes the least environmental impact.

In the view of our group, B.C. Citizens for Green Energy, the private sector and independent producers have a big role to play in meeting our province’s need for clean, renewable electricity.

David Field

B.C. Citizens for Green Energy

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