guest

The case for independent power producers

Authors argue the only way to ensure a clean energy future for B.C. is to embrace Indigenous IPPs

If CleanBC electrification goes ahead as planned, by 2030 BC will be short over 26,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) – the equivalent of five Site C dams – to meet provincial electricity demand. Where will it come from? The only reasonable answer is independent power producers (IPPs) that are either First Nations-owned entities or private companies, all of whom would partner with Indigenous communities.

Over the past 18 months, the BC government has criticized IPPs, signaling they want to see an end to private power producers. Last month, they introduced Bill 17 which would damage the IPP sector, including First Nations, local communities and investors. The evidence shows that these attacks are based on inaccurate or misleading information.

As far back as 2005, BC Hydro was forecasting an “emerging electricity gap” of almost 30,000 GWh a year (worst case scenario) because of strong economic growth. “It has been more than two decades since British Columbia last made a major addition to its electricity system…Our current load forecast indicates that BC’s electricity requirements will grow by between 25 percent and 45 percent over the next 20 years,” BC Hydro wrote in a public report.

GUEST VIEW: Reforming the PST can be a powerful tool to get people, businesses back to work long-term

BC Hydro also told the BC Utilities Commission that its level of imports was “too high.” Import prices had also risen dramatically. The BCUC approved BC Hydro’s assessment and the plan to bring IPP projects – mostly small hydro – on stream relatively quickly for only a small premium over the cost of a new hydro dam. Yes, energy purchase agreements from 2007 averaged $100/MWh, but that’s what clean energy projects cost then, as BC Hydro acknowledged in its submission.

Unfortunately, BC Hydro’s forecasts turned out to be inaccurate due to the global financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent recession which saw electricity consumption drop and flatline for nearly a decade. At times, BC Hydro was forced to sell the surplus power at a steep discount. The financial issues were clearly caused by an economic crisis, not sweetheart deals.

This history is important because just like 2005, British Columbia is again on the cusp of an emerging electricity gap. This time the drivers are CleanBC and Victoria’s commitment to electrify parts of the natural gas industry.

GUEST VIEW: Watch out for and don’t spread COVID-19 disinformation

Last time, BC Hydro erred with its 20-year load forecast. This time, the Horgan government’s mistake is accepting the sweetheart deals narrative and seeking to source the needed electricity from high-risk Western United States spot markets instead of partnering with IPPs. In fact, the government recently introduced legislation designed to phase-out IPPs just as the capital investment and economic development are needed more than ever.

What has changed since 2005? In the world of electricity and utilities, everything.

Wind turbines and solar panels that generated power for hundreds of dollars per MWh in 2005 are now the lowest-cost source of electricity – as low as $28/MWh for wind and $32/MWh for solar, according to Lazard. BC’s costs will probably be closer to $50 because of mountainous terrain and transmission. Compare those costs to two independent research institutes’ estimate of Site C’s $110 to $145 per MWh. Battery storage has also plummeted, making wind and solar even easier to integrate into the provincial power grid.

Where will the wind and solar generation needed by 2030 come from?

The Province has yet to give CleanBC marching orders to BC Hydro and the BCUC.

One thing we do know is that BC Hydro isn’t planning more new dams.

MORE LOCAL OPINION:

LETTER: An open letter to Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach

LETTER: Praise for municipal campground staffer

LETTER: Glad council decided not to repaint rainbow crosswalk

Purchasing cheap wind and solar power on American spot markets is a very risky strategy because while there is plenty of surplus power now, Western states are doing exactly what BC plans to do: electrifying their economies to combat climate change. Today’s surplus could be tomorrow’s shortage.

Why should BC ship tens of billions in capital investment and thousands of jobs south of the border? The far better strategy for BC is to build wind and solar farms as they’re needed.

Indigenous communities have embraced renewable energy projects as developers, and through partnerships. These projects provide electricity to our communities instead of dirty fossil fuels, and revenue on terms that align with Indigenous values. Wind and solar projects ensure that future generations have the same as, if not more, opportunity than today’s generation.

We can install wind turbines, solar panels, biomass facilities, and tidal generators just as well as the Americans. Hypothetically, BC could supply all of its future electricity needs with its own dirt-cheap renewable energy, creating jobs and tax revenue within the province.

The only industry able to marshal the investment, resources and expertise is the IPPs.

Why would our governments not incentivize regional projects and diversity? Now is the time to proactively invest in a resilient energy system for all British Columbians.

Patrick Michell, Chief, Kanaka Bar First Nation

Laureen Whyte, Executive Director, Clean Energy BC

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

Search on for mushroom picker missing from near Kitwanga

Tommy Dennis was last seen Sept 16 wearing blue jeans, black cap, rubber boots, grey checked sweater

Northwest firefighters headed to Oregon to battle wildfires

Over 200 B.C. firefighting personnel will assist in the U.S.

Cullen announces bid for provincial NDP nomination for Stikine riding

Current MLA Donaldson not seeking re-election

Another Telkwa councillor calls it quits

Councillor Rick Fuerst is the second Telkwa council member to hang up his hat since the 2018 election

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Most Read