You are hereGovernment Pulls the Plug on Private River Power Projects

Government Pulls the Plug on Private River Power Projects


Gwen Barlee, Wilderness Committee, 06Feb2012

The BC government’s announcement last Friday that it is axing BC Hydro’s electricity self-sufficiency and insurance requirement should dramatically reduce the demand for private power projects and keep scores of wild rivers out of pipes.

Previously, the provincial government had required BC Hydro to be electricity “self-sufficient” by 2016 based on critical low water levels, and to include an additional surplus of 3,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of “insurance” electricity by 2020. The previous bloated definition of “self-sufficiency” would have resulted in BC Hydro having a surplus of 8,000 GWh of electricity in average water years.

Last Friday, Premier Clark announced a dramatic shift in direction whereby BC Hydro will now be required to achieve self-sufficiency based on “average” water levels. Based on this new definition BC Hydro is already very close to electricity self-sufficiency, which will radically reduce the need for new private power projects.

“Putting wild rivers in pipes for energy that came at the wrong time of the year, and that BC doesn’t need, has been an abysmal failure,” said Gwen Barlee, Policy Director for the Wilderness Committee. “It has put an enormous financial burden on BC Hydro, which is our best tool against climate change, and has ruined dozens of wild rivers in BC.”

Private power projects, especially “run-of-river” developments, have been a hot button issue in BC. The projects have been heavily criticized for lack of planning, low environmental standards and their impact to the financial viability of BC Hydro. In Fiscal 2010 IPPs produced 16% of total domestic electricity requirements, while IPP electricity costs represented 49% of the overall domestic energy cost. BC Hydro has already contracted for $40 billion in energy purchase agreements to private power producers in BC.

“The writing was on the wall when the BC Government issued a report last summer which said that the current self-sufficiency definition was a ‘financial burden’, ‘inefficient’, ‘less than cost effective’ and placed a ‘significant planning constraint’ on BC Hydro,” said Barlee.

“What Premier Clark needs to do now is ensure that proposed river projects such as the Kokish, Upper Lillooet, Upper Toba and Harrison, which have energy purchase agreements with BC Hydro but aren’t yet built, do not proceed,” said Barlee. “Not only would it be environmentally damaging if these unnecessary projects proceeded but it would throw away billions of dollars of ratepayers’ money. ”

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For more information please contact:

Gwen Barlee, Policy Director, 604-202-0322 (c) or 604-683-8220 (w)

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