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Whistler to pay premium price for green energy

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They use renewable energy. The have low to no emissions as well as minimal impacts on surrounding ecosystems.

Hydro buys power from IPPs at a premium rate, about twice Hydro’s average cost for electricity.

Once the IPPs tap into the Hydro grid there is no way of knowing if the power going to any given place is green or not, but Hydro knows how many green megawatts are generated in total.

The charter customers will buy green certificates based on the total amount of green energy going into the grid.

The value in the premium price isn’t the electricity but rather the increased awareness of green power.

Gerry Scott, director of the climate change program for the David Suzuki Foundation, said the pilot project is a good thing but he is concerned Hydro’s approach is too narrow in its focus.

"This is a different approach that we think is not as useful as a universal system approach," he said.

"We don’t think the development of renewables should be on a volunteer or charitable status.

"We’re concerned about people paying a premium price for energy. The costs should be system-wide. The whole system should have more green energy in it."

Still, he said it’s a step forward for renewables, albeit a limited step forward.

For a place like Whistler, a municipality that is becoming a leader in sustainability initiatives, the program fits with other ongoing programs like green buildings.

Once the Spring Creek fire hall is built it will have a green building rating under the U.S. LEED system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)

The proponents are trying to get enough points for a silver LEED designation, based on green practices in design, construction and operation.

The green energy from B.C. Hydro may get the fire hall another point in the LEED system, said Graham Smith, development services manager with B.C. Building Corporation.

But as the LEED system is American, the Centre for Resource Solutions in California has yet to hear of B.C. Hydro’s program.

Smith said he is trying to "join the dots."

"This will open up the possibility of cross border compatibility regarding how green power (is) defined and recognized under LEED," he said.

Even if the hall does not qualify for any LEED points with Hydro’s green power, Smith said it is still a step in the right direction.