New independent power could add $26.1 billion to B.C. economy
By Scott Simpson
The independent power sector could inject $26.1 billion into the British Columbia economy by 2020, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study to be released today in Vancouver.
The report, commissioned by the Independent Power Producers Association of B.C., says $26.1 billion in capital investment could generate $9 billion for economic growth over the next 11 years -- representing a 4.5-per-cent increase in the size of the provincial economy.
PwC is still polishing the report and expects to release an authoritative version before year's end. A draft version is being presented today to IPPBC members at their annual conference. IPPs are now working through a BC Hydro call for power that seeks 6,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of new green energy from wind, run-of-river hydro, bioenergy and other renewable sources of electricity.
But the report says IPPs could deliver more than four times that amount -- 26,500 GWh -- to the grid by 2020. The numbers are not far-fetched -- Hydro's most recent call received bids totalling 17,000 GWh, and there are many projects around the province still in earlier stages of development.
Some of the electricity could be used to develop a substantial export industry -- producing 12,000 GWh per year to sell to green-power-eager markets in the United States. But the report also notes that electricity demand within B.C. could absorb all 26,500 gigawatt hours if new high-density office and residential buildings opt for electric heating instead of natural gas.
Total employment impacts from IPPs, at that level of development, would reach 87,000 person-years, and government revenues generated through the construction phase of potential IPP projects are estimated at $1.6 billion, the report says.
PwC says the Central Interior would realize the greatest benefit from biomass projects -- which require waste wood for fuel -- because it is the hub of B.C.'s forest industry.
The Lower Mainland-South Coast has the greatest potential for benefit from run of river development.
The Peace River region, meanwhile, would realize the greatest benefits from development of wind energy.
"From our perspective it's a good news story," PwC partner John Webster, who is presenting the report, said in an interview on Monday.
"Essentially once you've got the market estimates of electricity demand and you have the capital expenditures that derive from that, you plug the numbers into a very conventional economic input-output model."
The report should spur both the industry and the government to action -- and alert communities around B.C. to the economic opportunities on their doorsteps, said Harvie Campbell, IPPBC chairman.
"The purpose of the report is more to get specific about what that opportunity is, and what the demands are going to be on the industry, the opportunity for the communities, etc.," Campbell said. "We need to make sure we are working hand in hand with Victoria, with BC Hydro, with BCTC to bring about this big opportunity for the province."
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