Run-of-river rages on in Pemberton as B.C. Hydro has selected six projects in the area to move forward.
The projects have been brought forward under Hydro's Clean Power Call, which is seeking up to 5,000 gigawatt hours of "clean" or "renewable" energy each year from technologies such as hydro, wind, solar or geothermal energy.
B.C. Hydro has narrowed the number of proposals under consideration from 68 to 47, and six Pemberton projects are among them.
One of them is a run-of-river project planned for the Ryan River. Regional Power Inc., a Mississauga-based subsidiary of Manulife Financial, is pushing a project that will require burrowing a tunnel through Sugarloaf Mountain and diverting some of the river's flow to the other side, in order to generate up to 145 megawatts.
The proponent promises to build a salmon spawning channel at the mouth of the tunnel that the company claims could "save the Ryan" and bring wildlife back to an area that's been heavily impacted by industrial activity.
David Carter, executive vice-president of Regional Power, was happy with the news.
"Clearly we're very excited about having that opportunity," he said. "There's still lots of work ahead of us, but it's certainly a recognition on the part of the process that it's a worthy candidate."
Nigel Protter, a Pemberton-based consultant working with Regional Power to develop the project, was also pleased at the news that the Ryan is still under consideration.
"I think it's great news that the Ryan and other projects have been selected to move forward in the Clean Power Call," he said. "A lot of people thought the Clean Power Call was dead with the BCUC decision, and clearly in the eyes of the province it's not."
Protter was referring to a July 27 decision by the B.C. Utilities Commission that said the province's Long Term Acquisition Plan, which seeks to phase out gas-fired electricity generation and replace it with power from sources such as run-of-river, is not in the public interest where energy and self-sufficiency are concerned.
Part of that plan includes downgrading B.C.'s dependence on the Burrard Generating Station, a thermal plant fuelled by natural gas.
The province sought to cap its use of the station at 3,000 gigawatt hours per year, less than half its full capacity. But the commission said it should generate up to 5,000 gigawatt hours per year - effectively allowing it to produce more electricity than the provincial government wants it to produce.
"A lot of people will leap on that and think therefore that the BCUC should have had the last say," Protter said. "Of course that's entirely arguable whether it should or it shouldn't. The definition of public interest is not necessarily in alignment with today's ideas about clean energy, climate change and energy security."
Asked where the Ryan project stands now, he said it's currently undergoing an Environmental Assessment that will provide another opportunity for public comment later in the process. That period will come after a multitude of studies have been completed.
But the Ryan isn't the only project being considered in Pemberton. Also on the clean power table are five projects being proposed by Innergex, a renewable energy company headquartered in Longueil, Quebec. Innergex's projects are on the Hurley River, Gun Creek, the Upper Lillooet River, Boulder Creek and North Creek.
Innergex, which also developed the Fitzsimmons Creek project, holds a 66 and two-thirds per cent share in the projects, with the remaining ownership held by Ledcor Power Group Ltd.
Richard Blanchet, vice-president of Innergex's Western Region, said the company is "very pleased" that B.C. Hydro is moving forward with its projects.
"We are confident that we have projects of good quality," he said, adding that developers with the company are engaged in ongoing discussions with First Nations about siting the projects near Pemberton.