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indie power side

Smaller power facilities the wave of the future? Miller Creek could be good news for B.C. By Paul Andrew Would British Colombians like to see a single dam producing 1,000 megawatts of power built in a "pristine valley" near a smaller community such as Pemberton? Or would a 26 megawatt project which returns water to its source using a "run of river intake" system be more desirable? It is a question already asked and answered in the Columbia Basin, which comprises Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Dr. Mark Jaccard, who chaired the B.C. Utilities Commission from 1992 to 1997, said the long term strategy the U.S. has in place is something we could learn from. Jaccard, an associate professor at the School of Resource and Environmental Management at SFU, has published five reports on energy management during the last nine years, and teaches five courses involving energy system modelling, design and ecological economics. "The Land Use Planning Process in the Columbian Basin has mapped out the worst land use conflicts and rules out the smaller hydro developments." Jaccard explained. "It red flags the ones that are less likely to succeed. That way, there’s a lot less controversy when these applications for independent power projects are going through the approval process. BC Hydro isn’t doing that. Not anywhere near the scale it should be anyway." However, Jaccard admits the move to build IPPs is more than a "heads or tails" type dilemma. Will there be 1,000 smaller hydro generating stations across the province 20 years from now? And what about the communities such as Pemberton, which are targeted by private entrepreneurs and suddenly have to answer yes or no to IPP proposals? "That’s right. It’s like, ‘you’re not coming into our backyard syndrome’ 1,000 times,’" Jaccard said. "The pristine valleys around the province will be impacted. But will it be high impact or not? B.C. can’t have it both ways because Hydro does need the power in the long term. They might be in a period of excess right now. But in the future Hydro will need to do something and the smaller IPPs are an option." Jaccard says the B.C. government does not allow private entrepreneurs to sell power within the province, so if the Miller Creek project is approved, the power would be transferred out of the province or to the U.S. — using the BC Hydro grid. But it is likely that somewhere down the road, independent projects such as the one proposed for Miller Creek will be contributing to the provincial power supply. And, although sources at the Ministry of Employment’s electricity development branch implied IPPs are regulated by the B.C. Utilities Commission, Jaccard says the very fact they are independent means they are not regulated by any organization. "It’s covered by the Environmental Act, but that one might be so small that it’s not. I know the Island Co-gen project is covered because of its size. But the fact that it’s called independent means the project is just like any other business that isn’t a monopoly. It’s not a utility that’s regulated."