LTAP: Reaction to BCUC rejection
COMMENT: As predicted, the BCUC rejection of BC Hydro's Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP) has created a firestorm of media statements from all sectors.
Some are critical of the Commission for favouring Burrard Thermal over clean energy. Some are using the decision to beat up on government and BC Hydro for favouring IPPs over Burrard.
There is in all a degree of shrillness and stridency that underscores the obvious: people are pulling from the decision the bits which support their particular spin on the issues at hand. COPE likes the support for Burrard and claims the Commission concluded that BC Hydro "does not need the power asked for in the Clean Call". The NDP sees it as a "rejection of more private power". Tzeporah Berman spins the decision from the opposing camp: the Commission "sides with fossil fuels". Good grief.
But the decision is a large and complex document. None of these statements could have been made based on a considered reading of the whole thing. Worse, none of these statements is correct: it is all spin.
Energy in British Columbia is a large and complex affair, and we need to find a way to talk about it, understand the issues, and come to resolutions on them in a more reasonable way than this.
In a number of important instances, the Commission said that BC Hydro had not made a persuasive, or in some cases, comprehensible, case for a particular part of the plan, so the Commission was not going to render a decision on it. That's a criticism of BC Hydro's work, but it is not a rejection of the plan.
The BCUC is very much at fault, here. It plays an extremely important role, and this has been the most important LTAP and possibly the Commission's most significant review ever. Its decision was predestined to be met with great huffing and puffing. BCUC could have asked questions and given direction during the proceeding to BC Hydro that its evidence and arguments weren't going to cut it with the Commission and had better be improved on before all the evidence was in.
The Minister responsible for BC Hydro and Energy Policy, Blair Lekstrom, has already signalled that the Energy Plan stands, the Clean Energy Call will proceed, and Burrard is to be phased out. None of this actually goes against the LTAP decision, despite the spin, but it is clear that government is not going to have its policies opposed by the Commission.
The biggest failure, however, is BC Hydro's. It didn't make the case for its plan. It's not the first time in recent years that BC Hydro's agenda has failed at the Commission or with government: BCUC turned down the Vancouver Island Generation Project and the first Long Term Electricity Purchase Agreement with BC Hydro, the government itself rejected the first draft of the 2005 Integrated Electricity Plan. And now the LTAP.
It's not all BC Hydro's fault. With VIGP, it was following government orders, and government, Hydro, and the BCUC all found a way to get around the decision and bring VIGP back anyway (the Call for Tenders which privatized the project). The IEP was conducted as a model of an open, consultative, process so for government to reject it was hardly fair. LTEPA? Who will ever know - but government was very much involved with those negotiations.
All of these dramatic (and expensive) blows may well mean that CEO Bob Elton, who presided over them all, may be considering moving on to another stage in his career.
The decision itself is here.
Read Tom Hackney's comments introducing the LTAP decision, here. Tom is VP-Policy with the BC Sustainable Energy Association.
Here is an assortment of statements and responses to the LTAP decision. Media coverage and commentary is in a separate post, here.
BCUC Decision Good News for Hydro RatepayersNews Release
NDP Energy Critic
July 28, 2009
VICTORIA - The B.C. Utilities Commission's decision to reject the B.C. Liberal plan for more private power is good news for British Columbians concerned about higher electricity rates and for the environment, says Opposition energy critic John Horgan.
Horgan said today's decision backs the Official Opposition's call for a moratorium on private power projects until we have a better understanding of our long-term energy needs.
"The BCUC has quite rightly rejected Premier Campbell's arguments that these power projects will benefit British Columbians in any way," said Horgan, the MLA for Juan de Fuca.
"This decision is a victory for those who believe that the province's resources should be used for the benefit all British Columbians, not just for friends and donors of the B.C. Liberals."
Horgan called on the Campbell government to recognize the decision as an opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion about our long-term energy needs.
"The commission also found that B.C. Hydro's conservation measures are inadequate. This decision translates into a failing grade for the B.C. Liberal energy plan."
Carole James and the Official Opposition have been calling for a moratorium on all new private power projects to ensure that they meet environmental standards, are done in consultation with local communities and first nations, and fit with the energy needs of the province.
"Independent power projects that use B.C.'s rivers to create power for export to California for the benefit of a few corporations are not in the public interest," said Horgan. "Especially when they will result in skyrocketing electricity rates for B.C. families."
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Contact: Tim Renneberg, 250-361-6314 or 250-356-0592
Utilities Watchdog Bites Private PowerNews Release
July 28, 2009
Not Green, Not Smart, Not Needed
BURNABY — Yesterday the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) released an order which unequivocally curtails the gold rush towards private power in BC.
The BCUC concluded that the Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP) submitted by BC Hydro was “not in the public interest”, disrupting the provincial governments’ ongoing political interference of our public utility.
The BCUC order is a vindication of the comprehensive analysis submitted by COPE 378 on the LTAP and Clean Power Call. The BCUC agrees with COPE 378’s research and submissions: the government cannot exaggerate the need for power by downgrading the Burrard Thermal plant, shortchanging conservation efforts and forcing the purchase of private power, with British Columbians and ratepayers taking the risk.
Flowing from their decision that the LTAP was fundamentally flawed, the BCUC again agreed with COPE 378 that BC Hydro does not need the power asked for in the Clean Call. The Clean Call would have burdened BC Hydro with 3000 Gigawatts of surplus power - an enormous amount of unneeded electricity. The Commission’s decision means BC Hydro cannot use an LTAP decision to justify expenditures and expensive contracts with private power and then try and recover the costs through taxpayers.
The BCUC decision ensures each energy purchase contract and expenditure will come under more scrutiny to demonstrate if the project is in the best interest of British Columbians.
The BCUC also found the conservation efforts in the LTAP lacking. The Commission called the Demand Side Management provisions “deficient” and said that programs will decay.
“We are thrilled that the BCUC has recognized what we’ve been saying all along,” said COPE 378 President Andy Ross, “this is power we don’t need at a price we can’t afford.”
Over night markets quickly reacted to the BCUC's decision to reject the government's rush into private power and stocks plummeted. Hardest hit is Plutonic Power, the corporation developing a massive system of hydro projects in the Bute and Toba Inlets.
Yet unknown is if the powerful private power lobby will convince the provincial government to overturn the BCUC’s decision, or more ominously, its mandate and autonomy. “We saw it with Alcan. The BC Liberal government could use their cabinet powers to do an end-run around the BCUC,” warned Ross. “Alternatively the government could backstop the purchase of private power under the guise of economic stimulus.”
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Media Contact: Lori Winstanley, (778) 828-4039
BC Energy Watchdog Sides With Fossil Fuelsby Tzeporah Berman
zero carbon canada
July 28, 2009
Well, no one said the transition off fossil fuels was going to be easy….
You can read the whole 236 pages here
Here’s my take:
1. We need to get vehicles, buildings etc. off fossil fuels asap. The BCUC took us backwards. The BCUC not only rejected suggestions to move in the direction of electric cars etc., it actually directed BC Hydro to look into saving electricity by having its electricity users switch to gas!
2. We need to shut down greenhouse gas emitting power plants and switch to zero carbon sources. The BCUC actually rejected the utilities’ proposal to decrease its reliance on Burrard Thermal (pictured left) which runs on natural gas and is the biggest GHG polluter in the Vancouver region when it’s fired up. The provincial government wants it shut down as part of its climate and energy strategies. Let that sink in — the utility company(!) wants to decrease its reliance, the government wants to reduce carbon emissions and the “public interest” watchdog goes the other direction.
3. We need aggressive energy conservation measures to use less and clean power built to replace fossil for what we still use. The BCUC was mixed on the first front and outright awful on the second. Instead of moving aggressively to ramp up clean energy, the Commission rejected funding for the utility to complete clean power proposals it had already called for.
The basic problem is that these utility commissions are a good idea — they guard against energy price gouging and are supposed to make sure that things happen in the public interest — but what do you do when they define the public interest as “cheap” as opposed to avoiding catastrophe? The fossil fuel status quo is the cheap and easy route. And focusing on electricity without the whole energy picture leads to short-sighted mistakes.
Three-quarters of the energy used in BC is fossil fuelled. This is actually less than most places. BC has enviable advantages because most of its electricity (a small proportion of overall energy, but important) comes from big dam hydropower. So the climate gurus recommend using those big dams as backup “batteries” to a modern renewable energy system. Then the cars, buildings etc. can be “electrified” running on a no-carbon, green grid.
If the province hopes to realize that kind of vision with the kind of urgency climate change requires, the provincial government had better step in and provide some clarity. Here’s a news release I put out earlier:
BCUC Decision Supports Increased Greenhouse Gas Emissions
PowerUP Canada calls on BC Government to Take Action
July 28, 2009, Yesterday the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) rejected BC Hydro’s Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP) with a 238 page decision that was a serious blow to the clean energy transition and climate leadership in British Columbia.
“The BCUC decision would result in increased dependence on dirty energy and rising greenhouse gas emissions. It flies in the face of BC’s Climate Action Plan and could result in clean energy investment and jobs leaving the Province,” said Tzeporah Berman, Executive Director of PowerUP Canada.
BCUC recommended increased reliance on the aging, inefficient and polluting Burrard Thermal Plant (pg 115) and requested BC Hydro do an analysis of the cost effectiveness of decreasing electric demand by using natural gas for heating/hot water instead of clean electricity in new residential and commercial construction (pg175-179). The BCUC further rejected funding to complete the Clean Power Call process.
“At a time when the United Nations is calling global warming the greatest threat humanity has ever faced and competing jurisdictions are racing to build a clean energy economy, the idea that BC would continue reliance on fossil fuels is absurd,” continued Tzeporah Berman.
“The BC Government needs to step in and assure the public and investment community that this province is committed to climate leadership and developing a clean energy economy.”
The lack of planning for climate solutions is further apparent in BCUC’s refusal to ensure that BC Hydro’s demand forecast include demand for electric vehicles (pg 53-55). In contrast this month the Ontario government announced new subsidies, plans for charging stations and special carpool lanes to support the expansion of electric cars.
One bright point in the decision is that the Commission has begun to recognize the importance of energy conservation (DSM) measures. However even on this topic, the BCUC throws existing laudable efforts into disarray by rejecting the DSM plan.
For more information:
Energy Minister Calls NDP Response to Rejection of Private Energy Proposal SurprisingAndrea Boyes, CFAX-1070, Jul 28, 2009
THE PROVINCIAL NDP IS APPLAUDING THE BC UTILITIES COMMISSION'S DECISION TO REJECT BC HYDROS PROPOSAL TO PURCHASE ENERGY FROM PRIVATE PRODUCERS----SOMETHING THE MINISTER OF ENERGY SAYS SHOWS THE OFFICIAL OPPOSITIONS LACK OF COMMITTMENT TO 'CLEAN GREEN ENERGY INITIATIVES'
BLAIR LEKSTROM SAYS HE FINDS THE OPPOSITIONS COMMENTS ABOUT THE SITUATION, SURPRISING
"I think what that tells me is they are in favor of putting out more greenhouse gas emissions, and not following through in support of clean, green energy initiatives"
LEKSTROM SAYS REJECTION OF THE PROPOSAL DOESN'T FIT WHERE THE PROVINCE IS HEADED
"this decision is as I indicated, a big surprise. I don't think that the people of the Lower Mainland would see this as a positive decision, and we are committed to growing the clean, renewable industry sector in British Columbia and that committment stands firm"
ENERGY CRITIC JOHN HORGAN BEGS TO DIFFER HOWEVER, AS HE TOLD CFAX EARLIER TODAY THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE PLEASED WITH THE DECISION AS IT WILL SAVE THEM THE MONEY THEY WOULD HAVE HAD TO PAY UNDER PRIVATE POWER PRODUCERS.
- ANDREA BOYES
Energy regulator’s shocking rejection of BC Hydro energy planMedia Release
BC Sustainable Energy Association
July 29, 2009
VICTORIA, BC – On Monday, the BC Utilities Commission rejected BC Hydro’s 2008 Long-Term Acquisition Plan, which has been under review for the last year.
“We are surprised and concerned at the Utilities Commission decision to reject BC Hydro’s long-term energy plan,” said Tom Hackney, Vice-President for Policy of the BC Sustainable Energy Association. “BC needs to develop its renewable energy resources if it is to move off fossil fuel dependency, and BC Hydro’s plan was going in that direction. This decision undermines that.”
A key part of the Commission’s decision was its rejection of BC Hydro’s proposal to down-rate the Burrard Thermal Generating Station to 3,000 Gigawatt-hours per year of energy. The Commission strongly suggested that Hydro consider relying on Burrard for 5,000 GWh/y.
“The Burrard Generating Station is an old, inefficient, polluting technology, located in a confined air-shed with many people and serious air quality problems,” said Hackney. “It is troubling that the Commission should reject Hydro’s plan to reduce reliance on Burrard.”
Although the Commission approved the spending of $418 million to implement BC Hydro’s energy conservation and efficiency plans, it nevertheless rejected the plan itself.
“This decision is clearly not a win for the environment and our fight against climate change,” said Naomi Devine, BCSEA Director. “It is a serious step backward in BC’s transition off of fossil fuels and our journey toward a sustainable future. The Commission does not seem to be taking seriously government's climate change policies and our urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Because the Commission second-guessed Hydro on the energy rating of Burrard Thermal and rejected Hydro’s conservation plans, they then concluded that the case to justify the 3,000 Gigawatt-hour per year Clean Energy Call had not been met,” said Hackney. “This introduces unfortunate uncertainty into the industry. It would have been better had the Commission accepted the plan and called for Hydro to correct any errors with the filing of its next energy plan.”
The BC Sustainable Energy Association (www.bcsea.org) is a non-profit society that envisions a future in which all of BC's energy needs are met with clean, efficient, renewable energies. We actively promote sustainable energy in BC through practical projects, education and policy development.
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For more information, contact:
Posted by Arthur Caldicott on 29 Jul 2009