BC Utilities Commission slaps roadblock on Run of the River projects

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remind remind's picture
BC Utilities Commission slaps roadblock on Run of the River projects


After hearings that lasted almost a year, the commission has rejected BC Hydro's long-term acquisition plan as “not in the public interest...

Some analysts say the ruling – which shocked the government and the stock market – indicates B.C. has been over-estimating the amount of power the province needs in order to justify the development of independent power projects.

“We have a very flawed energy plan in this province … the government cannot continue to exaggerate the need for power,” said Lori Winstanley, a spokeswoman for the professional employees' union known as COPE, which has long been critical of BC Hydro's energy plan.

For years the opposition NDP has questioned the Campbell government's energy plan, claiming independent hydro projects that harness some of the province's rivers – known as run of river projects – pose hazards to the environment, and sports fisheries.

The ruling delivered a quick blow to independent power producers (IPPs), with shares for Plutonic Power Corp. plunging about 24 per cent yesterday, falling $1.00 to $3.08.

"Dow Jones Newswires said the commission's decision “could put the development of new renewable-power projects in the province on hold.”


Remind - please don't forgot to mention that the commission also supports the continued use of the less than green Burrard thermal Plant and even suggests that perhaps it might be expanded - sure all those of us who are breathing the polluted air these days will welcome that move.


There is the sound of cheering on the North Island and the smaller island communities.  The people I know were in the process of gearing up for the fight of their lives because of the potential theft of their coastal river system.  Maybe conservation is the answer especially since these projects were in fact (according to everyone except the promoters) designed to produce power for export to the American grid.

remind remind's picture

Okay I won't:

Burrard Plant Offers Clean Power Solution

Charlie Smith raises some excellent points about the retrogressive move of BC Hydro to an increased reliance on coal-derived electricity and the presence of people on the board of directors with connections to the coal industry ["BC Hydro Exec gets on Board With Coal Company", August 12-19]. Approximately 90 percent of the electricity we require in B.C. can be generated from existing hydro sources. Until green energy sources are developed, it makes sense to generate electricity from the natural gas-fired Burrard Thermal plant, which can provide about 10 percent of BC Hydro's capacity. Installation of emission controls at the plant in Port Moody has hugely decreased its impact on local air quality. For example, in 2000, while operating at 44 percent of its capacity, Burrard Thermal produced only 0.2 percent of the smog-producing gases in the lower Fraser Valley.

BC Hydro officials claim that electricity generated from this plant is too expensive and not cost-competitive with that derived from coal-derived sources. Yet it is BC Hydro's own policies for natural-gas purchase that make operation of Burrard Thermal costly. If BC Hydro purchased natural gas for Burrard through long-term contracts, it would be much less expensive than to purchase it on the "spot" market, which is what happens now.


And it is only used when needed, and not constantly,  in fact is it even used during the spring and summer? I do not believe so. And like 0,2 % makes a difference to the air you breath. Why not stop the importing of hydro from Wash state from the coal fired plants there  that spew smog into the lower mainland?


Historically, Hydro has overbuilt our hydro generating and reservoir capacity. According to Marvin Shaffer ("Lost in Transmission") this gives it the ability to keep our power costs low by trading like a stock market speculator in the Western NA energy market. Basically, when the price of fossil fuel generated power is low (e.g. natural gas prices are low), they buy power off the grid and let water accumulate in the reservoirs.

It's a brilliant strategy if your only goal is to keep power costs to a minimum. However, in the face of global warming it is not an environmentally sound practice.


Politics101 wrote:

Remind - please don't forgot to mention that the commission also supports the continued use of the less than green Burrard thermal Plant and even suggests that perhaps it might be expanded - sure all those of us who are breathing the polluted air these days will welcome that move.

Yeah, the Burrard Thermal Generating Station is an antiquated relic from the 1960's that uses natural gas as its input. It's rarely used and only when the grid is at peak demand.

Both the NDP and Libs have promised to phase it out over the past 2 decades.

Remember the Duke Point Generating Station that was also to be natural gas fired? That was to be a state of the art plant but there was such a public uproar over potential emissions it was abandoned circa 2000 leaving BC Hydro with an investment loss of hundreds of millions.

A report before the Utilities Commission also stated that Burrard Thermal would be the largest point source of greenhouse gas emissions in the province and the second largest point source of nitrous dioxide.

Firing up Burrard Thermal on a permanent basis would be akin to implementing thousands of Tsawwassen Hydro lines throughout the Lower Mainland in terms of public uproar and opposition.

It will NEVER happen.






Post changed until I can get the link to Vaughan Palmer's column on this matter to work properly.


Thanks Centrist - that is what Vaughan Palmer was discussing in his article in today's Sun.


remind remind's picture

And you think destroying the environment by 900 run of the river projects is better?


remind wrote:

And you think destroying the environment by 900 run of the river projects is better?


"Destroying the environment" is wildly overstating the case.

Outside of the 12% that the Harcourt gov't (and Groel Bruntland) protected in BC, most of the rest of the province is already under industrial resource management (i.e. we have roads and a history of logging/mining almost everywhere). This is no excuse to cause greater damage, but the impact of a power project is something that needs to be looked at on a watershed specific basis, and from a regional planning perspective looking at cumulative impacts. There are impacts, but it doesn't automatically "destroy the environment". This government is not doing that type of assessment, which is one of the reasons why I support a moratorium on IPP development. The other is the underlying issue of controlling the resource: where the money goes, and what treaty obligations selling power may entail.

On a global scale, not producing hydro and intentionally buying fossil fuel produced power (as is current BCHydro practice) also has environmental impacts.



remind remind's picture

No I do not think  it is overstating the case at all, and I did not even mention, they are not ours to sell in the first  damn place.




Who said anything about "selling" them. That's not on anybody's radar. Whether it's BCHydro, a First Nation, or a multi-national corporation it is a question of looking at the situation and what constraints should be applied, or whether it should even happen at all.

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

Sorry Remind, I did not see this entry. I do not think people realize how the heatwave has affected these river and streams at this time.

It's all about money. For instance it would be smart for investors to go with industries that are developing hydro capabilities and selling to the grid while the forest industries diversify their product base into electrical co generation. Such diversion of chip supplies can offset a lower selling pulp and paper price as they use too with lumber in cyclical markets trends as an offset toward economical diversification.

This comes with a decision by hydro not to invest in "any new sources of hydro development."

Why not as a "public company" and as a green and sustainable one?

Because privatization is "a mantra with this government" and to see that control is better off in the hands of people who like to make money(* who have inside information?) while government supports with even more taxation and a two tiered system to seek to balance the cost of electricity in it's rightful place(not!)  The Liberal Government seeks to place it on a commodities market for fairness to sall people and control. Never  mind about the people of this province or the people of this country.

All you have to do is follow BC Gas(Terasen[who buys them]) Issue to know the architecture and planning that is followed. Never mind about "just" BC Rail. They hope you get lost in the transitions and by then, your accustom. Sleeping people governed. It's so easy? Make it about "which political party" and the rest is easy with a mandate. Well, you gave them permission right?

So putting politics aside, what do you want for your country/province?


The Miller Creek project is a run-of-the-river hydroelectric station typical of many proposed independent power projects in BC Hydro's long-term plan.

The B.C. Utilities Commission has pulled the plug on BC Hydro's controversial plan to buy electricity from dozens of run-of-river and wind-power projects.

The utilities commission has determined the long-term acquisition scheme is not practical and not in the public interest.

The commission has directed the utility instead to continue using the gas-fired Burrard thermal plant.

The NDP says the decision is a major setback for Hydro and the Liberal government of Premier Gordon Campbell.

"It's a slap in the face to the B.C. Liberal energy plan," said B.C. NDP energy critic John Horgan. "The regulator has said we don't need this high-priced independent power at this time."

During the May provincial election campaign, environmental organizations were split on whether or not the small power projects were a good idea. And at least one environmentalist criticized the commission's decision.



My opinion here.

You really have to understand how media is used by the Liberal Government to "predict outcomes."

For instance with leases already granted to a portion of the projects, what will happen to to those that have initiated projects and have no supplier that they can sell too. Okay, so you look for special wording in contracts? Or, maybe how the rest of the "special interest groups" will be satisfied by the Liberal Government in some other way?

Imagine BCUC countering the green movement?  Oh, and do not be fooled by that one enviromental opinion, while fifty exist otherwise.  Just who are the special interest groups?

And as the number of IPPs and lucrative B.C. Hydro "energy-purchase agreement" contracts mounts under Campbell's watch, boardroom and staff lists of B.C.'s biggest IPPs increasingly resemble alumni associations of B.C. Liberal and B.C. Hydro grads

One has to wonder if the subject of insider trading has any special emphasis here knowing full well "what the agenda was going to be,"  in advance? I'd say, there should be an investigation.

remind remind's picture

I did not understand what you are trying to say  here exactly spectrum.

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

For those readers who aren’t aware of what’s happening with BC Hydro, here’s a brief synopsis. Our provincial government is refusing to build new publicly-owned hydro projects. Instead, these projects are now being built through private-public partnerships, a process that’s privatizing our electricity system. This will transfer the control of the system to local and foreign private interests, expose ratepayers to the dangers of the turbulent American energy market, and enmesh our hydro system within a larger transmission grid controlled by American energy corporations. As this happens our hydro generation will fall under NAFTA rules that will make it impossible for future governments to turn it back into a Crown utility.The cumulative damage done: A revolution in BC’s hydroelectric generating industry adds up to a serious threat to local ecology

Nicely put Michael. Part of what I wanted  to say and you go on to elaborate....

Because the government says that these projects will be “green,” they’ve won the support of a number of environmental organizations. According to BC Hydro’s website, for a power project to be “green” it has to be renewable, properly licensed, socially responsible, and have a low environmental impact. This sounds good, but, as ever, the devil hides like a coward in the details.

It's part of the whitewash that media was supporting by reporting on Campbell's position based on an environmental attributed one when indeed it was nothing more then a "gold rush on power grabbing" which ultimately meant money grabbing.  His compadres knew a good thing when they saw it and I was being facetious when I wrote about investors, because if you want to be part of that gold rush you knew where you might get sustainable dollars while looking to the future. Businesses don't diversify to electrical production unless there is a benefit you see.

For these reasons, the ecological costs of multiple small private energy projects can actually be greater than those imposed by a few large public ones.

Yes of course it's culmination, and imagine "one issue raised in terms of the Burrand plant"  like one environmental to the fifty, media opinion versus the ability of the Run of the River Projects. Yes, how Green it is in fast bucks.

IN this case Greed is Green, and the whipping hand is the government that likes to see the horse beaten and really does not care, according to it's primary motive, which is Privatization. Emphatically we are the horse, and we feel the whip, so then, why allow ourselves to be whipped?

If people really cared about Green they would keep it in the "public's hand" in order to promote true and effective polices which this government has clouded which it's primary motivation. In this case democracy has failed to live according to the truth for which it has provided consensus according to public rule while held to the choosing of which political party. You gave a green light to these disastrous policy decision implementations by ignoring your responsibility of public consultancy position, for which the current governmental holds on environmental deception.

Shame on us.


Spectrum Spectrum's picture


Policy 2005 – An energy future that works for us all

In November of 2002 the BC Liberal Government released its new energy policy. That policy said that massive changes to BC Hydro would not occur. In fact, over the past three years the BC Liberal government-

  1. Privatized 1/3 of BC Hydro to Bermuda based Accenture

  2. Broke-up BC Hydro into separate companies (creating BCTC)

  3. Privatized all new power generation by imposing a ban on BC Hydro building any new power

  4. Deregulated the electricity system, opening the door to private exports of energy and dramatically reducing the ability of future governments to plan and manage BC's energy needs in the interests of its residents and undermining public control over the electricity system

  5. Allowed the private sector to build transmission lines

  6. Initiated the first in an ongoing series of yearly rate increases

All of these actions are the first steps in a much bigger project to completely dismantle BC Hydro. The consequences of these actions will hit average homeowners and small businesses, those who can least afford it, the hardest.

The costs are tremendous and are only beginning.

I know this is an ongoing fight and it is only by recognizing the history that one gets a true sense of the deceptions that have been perpetrated on citizens of this province. Deceptions blinding,  by the Whip of Privatization.


Spectrum Spectrum's picture

Newfoundland Hydro (a crown corporation) purchase Newfoundland Power

Nalcor Energy, known as the Energy Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador prior to December 2008, is a provincial Crown corporation under the government of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the creation of which was announced in May 2007. Nalcor now serves as the parent company of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and was created to separate Hydro's regulated activities from other energy-related interests acquired or developed by the province in recent years. Nalcor manages the province's interests in the energy sector, including hydroelectric power (via Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro), wind power, the Bull Arm fabrication facility, and various oil and gas interests in the province's offshore. See:Nalcor Energy and Wikipedia

remind remind's picture

Thanks spectrum and Michael, lays it all out very well.

Kaspar Hauser