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Hydro agrees to buy power from local IPPs

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Record 1,800 gigawatt hours purchased from 16 producers

B.C. Hydro will buy power from two more independent power producers in the Sea to Sky corridor.

This agreement is part of bigger deal by Hydro to buy power from 16 small power projects throughout the province in what has become the largest purchase of "green" energy in B.C.’s history.

An additional 1,800 gigawatt hours per year will be generated by the 16 projects. The purchase will provide about $800 million in private-sector investment, according to the province.

The projects in the Sea to Sky area are the run-of-river IPPs on the Ashlu Creek in Squamish and the Mkw’alts Creek (also known as the Ure Creek) near Mount Currie.

Though the projects are at various stages with their permitting and licensing applications, this announcement means in all probability the projects are a done deal, according the Barry Wilkinson, community relations co-ordinator, Lower Mainland and Coastal Region for B.C. Hydro.

"It means in all probability they’re going to go ahead because they (the developers) will have spent an awful lot of money by this stage," he said.

"But they will still have some permitting to do and some agreements to reach."

Premier Gordon Campbell and B.C. Hydro Chair and CEO Larry Bell announced the power purchase last Friday, Sept. 26.

"This is a significant step in our plan to work with independent power producers and develop 50 per cent of our new power supplies from clean energy sources," said Campbell.

"These projects will be financed with new private sector investment that will create 800-1,000 construction jobs across the province, and enough electricity to meet the needs of 180,000 homes."

When Hydro first put out the call for green energy projects last October, 70 proposals were submitted. Originally Hydro was looking for 800 gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy per year but over the course of the calls, that number doubled.

According to Wilkinson the increase happened for two reasons.

"We made a call last year for customer-based generation, that would be (things) like pulp mills and large industry selling power back to Hydro from their own generation capabilities," he said

"There was an under response on that by I think about 300 GWh. The second issue that’s come up is supply uncertainty. I guess you could associate that with drier summers and those kinds of things.

"So our board confirmed a decision that it would be more prudent to take some more power out of this call than what was originally intended."

The Energy Purchase Agreements for these 16 projects will be signed by mid-November. The energy will come from one landfill gas project, one wind energy project and 14 small run-of-river projects, ranging from Delta and Sechelt to Revelstoke and Boston Bar.

"We are extremely pleased and excited by the response from the private sector," said Bell.

"The province gave us clear direction under its energy plan that incremental power supply to meet out customers’ growing energy needs would come from IPPs, and we’re well on our way with a purchase that’s over twice as large as we originally planned."

The run-of-river projects are called green energy projects because they divert a portion of water from a creek into turbines, which create the power. The water is then diverted back into the creek. There are no emissions and no big dams are created to make the energy.

Vancouver-based Ledcor Power is in charge of the Ashlu Creek project in Squamish. The company also has an IPP proposal on Fitzsimmons Creek in Whistler. The Ashlu project will generate 200 GWh of electricity per year, or enough power for roughly 20,000 homes.

But the project is also slated to go on one of the most popular kayak runs in the Sea to Sky corridor.

Stuart Smith, chair of leadership and coaching for the Whitewater Kayaking Association of B.C said the meetings between the kayaking association and Ledcor to date have been "totally combative."

The Mkw’alts Creek project will generate 154 GWh of electricity per year. Cloudworks Energy LP is responsible for the project and have been working with the Mount Currie band in developing the project. Some of the principal players in Cloudworks have a history with IPP projects in the Sea to Sky corridor, namely the Miller Creek project in Pemberton. The kayakers are in negotiations with this proponent, said Stuart, but the creek isn’t as popular as the Ashlu Creek with the kayakers.

IPP projects have created a stir of controversy in the Sea to Sky corridor not only among the kayakers but also with environmentalists who are worried about fish and wildlife habitat in years to come. Residents are also concerned with the plethora of projects that are slated for the local creeks ever since Hydro put out the call for green energy.

All 16 projects must be operational by Sept. 30, 2006.

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