I was asked the question the other day, “what is the Vision for renewable/clean energy in BC? I was forced to say, as far as I can figure out, The BC Government has no vision and no push for renewable/clean energy, in fact as First Nations and other Independent Power Producers (IPP) continue to lobby for greater opportunities, BC Hydro is decreasing the ability to add renewable energy to the grid.
The Clean Energy Act requires that electricity generated in BC be 93% from clean or renewable sources. Site C Dam is scheduled to be adding 1100 MW to the grid by 2024 so the statutory requirement is more than met. With the mega dams in BC, reaching that goal has been achieved so what is there to strive for? Could be one reason why there is no vision. With all that electricity being added to the system, BC Hydro does not need sources of renewable energy for some time. Minister Bill Bennett has assured the clean energy sector that after Site C, it will be their time as there are no more mega dams left in BC. The Minister of Energy and BC Hydro really don’t know when additional power will be needed as even the Joint Review Panel for Site C stated that the electricity isn’t needed and there will be too much power available.
The draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) following the Site C decision did not have clean energy opportunities in it for the next 20 years. It was only after the First Nations and the clean energy Industry lobbied the provincial government that they added Chapter 8 that allowed for the Standing Offer Program (SOP) and added in 45 MW of procurement per year. As the SOP is the only way to get a project to develop clean energy there is a queue to produce that power and it takes 3+ years to get the opportunity to develop your project.
It took a lot of effort to get this small opportunity and now BC Hydro is making cuts due to its rates review application to the BCUC and is cutting $65 million from the SOP. What this means is that between 2020-2025, there will be up to 2/3 cuts in the number of projects and BC Hydro also wants to do a price reduction as well. Bottom line, BC Hydro does not want to have to buy any power from independent producers due to the overage of electricity that will be produced by Site C. There are many areas BC Hydro could have reduced their budgets and the SOP being the only opportunity for the private sector to create power should not have been where they cut back on. Further proof that there is no vision for renewables in BC.
Thus, when the question arose, what is the vision of the BC Government for clean energy, the answer is there isn’t one. The demand for power has been declining, Site C will produce too much power, and there are no big industries on the horizon that will need large amounts of power.
The Climate Change Plan that came out a few weeks ago was incredibly disappointing. Electrification was not a factor and could have been one way to increase the demand for electricity. The plan was weak and not fitting with the leadership that was set by Gordon Campbell’s liberals in setting a carbon tax and reducing GHG. Any leadership BC showed years ago has been diminished to almost nothing. The excuse given is that they are waiting for the federal government’s plans. Climate change mitigations and actions cannot wait. BC and the world are experiencing many severe weather events due to climate change. Immediately addressing climate change is critical to the ongoing economic development and prosperity in this province. BC cannot stick its head in the sand and hope someone else takes action.
After the Paris Agreement on climate change, many countries around the world made commitments to have 100% renewable energy by a certain date. Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) are at such levels that it is increasing the temperatures dramatically around the globe and have to be reduced. Renewable Energy is one solution. One BC is not really interested in and their lack of vision is disturbing. As you see many countries switching to 100% renewables, technological developments are finding new ways to create renewable power and in BC, this won’t happen as the opportunity to produce power has been reduced radically. BC will fall way behind other countries in leading any new kind of technologies.
Will independent power producers stay around in BC? They will to operate their existing projects. But they will likely take their investment dollars to other provinces where there are actual opportunities.
For First Nations who are developing clean energy and are desirous of developing more, it is not so easy to go to another province and develop projects there. They want to develop in their own territories. They want the Liberals to live up to their promises in the New Relationship, the Clean Energy Act, and work seriously on reconciliation. Many First Nations were asking the government Ministers and bureaucrats last week at the cabinet/Chiefs Summit if they could have more opportunities but the government has to say no.
One thing is certain, the decision to build Site C was a conscious decision made by the government fully knowing that it would take away the opportunity from First Nations to develop in the clean energy industry. They knew the amount of interest, the proposed projects, the amount of pre-feasibility work that was being done by First Nations in looking for electricity purchase agreements and they knowingly walked away from an industry that First Nations have embraced. Their relations with First Nations and any kind of reconciliation was not a priority in this decision.
Hydro is one of the better forms of producing electricity but you have to look at the negative impacts of building Site C- a large dam in treaty 8 territory. The fact those most of the Treaty 8 Nations are opposed speaks volumes. Site C will be the 3rd dam on the Peace River. The cumulative impacts of a 3rd dam are immense and First Nations rights and way of life which have already been disturbed will now be even more intensely felt. The real cost of Site C is not known. The cost of inundating valuable land, destroying burial and cultural sites, destruction of habitat for fish, wildlife and other life, destroying ecosystems, displacing people and hunting and fishing sites, all have not been added onto the real cost of Site C. Add on to that the loss of opportunity to First Nations and the independent power sector to produce power.
As an alternative to Site C, the independent power sector would have financed their own projects-not having a large debt on the public’s tax money, they would have provided regional supplies of power and not just relying on one area of the province, they would have had jobs and investment all over the province. If IPP’s were able to provide the power, they would have been able to supply power as needed and not at one time like Site C is doing. When Site C is built, it will only have 25 full time operating jobs. The IPP sector would have had many more full time jobs. IPP’s are the future for producing power post Site C. BC would do well to work with IPP’s to ensure they have a role in this province now and into the future so they are ready to produce power when BC needs it.
Site C has left BC visionless for the clean energy industry in the future. Complacency because legislative goals have been achieved is not acceptable in times when Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability are the top of everyone’s mind. The BC Government and BC Hydro are making some effort to keep the clean industry alive, but so far, the indications are gloomy and many in the industry feel that the clean/renewable industry in BC will fade away as the frustrations of dealing with a government with no vision for clean energy becomes too much and they walk away. That may be giving the BC government what they want, but when there is no economic opportunity, who wants to stay around or come to BC to invest? Visioning is for the long term, and BC needs to set that vision for clean/renewable power and work towards it.