BC Liberals and NDP locking horns over new energy policy

The B.C. government is relaxing the electricity self-sufficiency policy that has driven expansion of independent power projects.

  • Feb. 6, 2012 6:00 p.m.

– With files from Tom Fletcher

The B.C. government is relaxing the electricity self-sufficiency policy that has driven expansion of independent power projects, and put the focus on new electricity supply for a major expansion of liquefied natural gas exports.

Premier Christy Clark made the announcement Friday in Burnaby. The self-sufficiency policy set in 2008 required BC Hydro to supply the province’s needs even in the lowest-water years when large hydroelectric reservoirs run low and B.C. has to import power.

The new policy requires BC Hydro to be self-sufficient only in average-water years, and will lead to the purchase of more imported power in years of low snow and rainfall.

B.C.’s announcement comes the day after the National Energy Board approved an export permit for B.C.’s second LNG facility near Kitimat. Chinese, Korean and Canadian energy companies have invested in the first two projects, and Shell has proposed a third.

LNG production requires huge refrigeration and compression plants. The B.C. government estimates that with new electricity development it can power two plants, but a gas-fired power plant will be needed to back up run-of-river or wind generation that runs intermittently.

“B.C.’s natural gas will help with the transition to a low-carbon global economy by displacing Asia’s current reliance on other carbon-intensive fuels like coal and diesel,” Clark said. “To protect our environment here, we also plan to introduce a more ambitious means of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon capture and storage, while balancing growth.”

Meanwhile, NDP MLA Doug Donaldson is slamming the plan for lacking a training component.

“Development of our natural resources such as natural gas holds great potential,” said Donaldson.  “Yet without a training plan involving our regional community college to go along with this strategy, local people will not be in the best position for potential local job opportunities.”

Donaldson points to the deficits facing the Northwest Community College of up to $2 million.

“There was nothing new today from the Premier on support for post-secondary education,” he added.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons points out the prediction of a labour shortage while unemployment remains high.

“BC’s minister of jobs, tourism and innovation, Pat Bell, has said addressing First Nations unemployment is a priority and a very important component to addressing the labour shortage,” said Coons. “But when we see Northwest Community College with a $2 million cut from programs and services, the college’s ability to properly serve First Nations communities is severely compromised. It’s disappointing to see the Premier launch her so-called jobs plan last year in Prince Rupert only to have the region’s college then have to make severe cuts.”