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 projects. The 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:
- From our friends at ZeroCarbonCanada.
- Vaughan Palmer in today’s Vancouver Sun,
- Today’s Globe and Mail, and
- the Canadian Wind Energy Association
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