B.C. launches green-power policy review
By Scott Simpson, Vancouver Sun, November 3, 2009
Premier Gordon Campbell on Monday announced a sweeping, fundamental review of energy policy in British Columbia.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Independent Power Producers association of B.C., Campbell said the Liberals will create four groups to work on distinct facets of the province's green power sector.
The intention is to make B.C. an international leader in green power development -- both for this province and for export to markets including the United States and Alberta, Campbell said. Its intention is also to attract and strengthen the independent power sector in B.C.
IPPs have been frustrated at times by protracted power sales contract negotiations with BC Hydro, which have made it challenging to attract investor support for projects. They have also been a target for some environmental and public policy-based non-government organizations -- and even by BC Hydro's large-scale industrial customers -- for allegedly driving up the cost of adding new electricity supply.
Most recently, publicly traded IPPs took a beating in the markets after an unexpected B.C. Utilities Commission ruling sharply curtailed their ability to gain entry to the B.C. electricity market despite explicit provincial policy to the contrary.
Campbell made it clear in his speech that the government is steadfast in its support for expansion of independent power supply. "We have enormous resources in British Columbia and those resources allow us to provide not just the people that live in this province with green and clean, low-carbon power, it allows us to expand our horizons to build an economy based on green, clean low-carbon power -- and we have to do that together, and that means we have to do that with the independent power producers of British Columbia," Campbell told conference delegates.
All four groups stand under the umbrella of the green energy advisory body that was announced in the B.C. throne speech last August.
Campbell is looking for an exceptionally short turnaround time for the groups to report back to government -- he wants responses by January 2010, which is a nanosecond in the often ponderous regulatory world of B.C.'s electricity sector.
The groups will review everything from regulation of BC Hydro and expanded electricity export opportunities, to community engagement in the development of new, private sector power development.
Hydro's 'procurement regime,' which issues calls for new sources of electricity, will also be examined to "enhance clarity, certainty and competitiveness in promoting clean and cost-effective power generation," according to a press release that accompanied Campbell's announcement.
Campbell also announced a new cabinet committee to which the groups must report. It includes himself, Environment Minister Barry Penner and Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom, as well as the chairs of BC Hydro and BC Transmission Corp. "It's going to be a lot of work, but the work has to be done," said Harvie Campbell, IPPBC chairman. "The premier is right. The organizations of 20 years ago won't fit the green energy future we have to put together. It means a number of different groups must coalesce, quickly and get answers going, for the economy, the environment, and for the industry."
Tzeporah Berman, executive director of Power Up Canada, said she was impressed with "the breadth and commitment" to green energy development that the four groups would have to encompass. "It's about creating clean energy and new jobs for British Columbia and addressing climate change," Berman said. "The short timeline shows that they are committed to sending the right signals to the investment community, which is incredibly important because other jurisdictions are beating us to the punch. I was also really relieved to see that the government is committed to reviewing the environmental guidelines around approval and acceptance [of IPP power projects] and to strengthening the criteria for ensuring what projects happen and what don't."
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