Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett speaking at Catalyst Paper's distribution centre on the Fraser River in Surrey Thursday.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett speaking at Catalyst Paper's distribution centre on the Fraser River in Surrey Thursday.

Pulp mills get break to save energy

Province unveils $100 million to help industry finance conservation projects as power rates hikes loom

Struggling B.C. pulp and paper mills are being offered $100 million in energy conservation subsidies that Energy Minister Bill Bennett says will pay off through power savings and a stabilized industry.

The three-year initiative will benefit seven thermo-mechanical pulp or paper mills run by Catalyst Paper, Canfor, West Fraser and Paper Excellence, which can get 75 per cent funding for energy-saving projects approved under the new PowerSmart program for industry.

The companies are huge power users, consuming 10 per cent of the electricity BC Hydro sells, and had warned rate increases of 28 per cent over the next five years could threaten their operations and cost local jobs.

Eligible mills are in Crofton, Port Alberni (a paper mill), Powell River, Taylor, Chetwynd, Port Mellon and Quesnel.

The industry’s challenges cast a long shadow in those towns, where pulp and paper jobs are critical to the local economy, and one of the firms – Catalyst – has been emerging from bankruptcy protection.

Encouraging reinvestment in power efficiency will mean savings for the companies involved, Bennett said, and will reduce provincial energy demand.

“BC Hydro will not have to spend $265 million on new generation because these four companies are going to conserve that much electricity,” Bennett said, adding it will also help protect thousands of jobs across the province.

Catalyst Paper president Joe Nemeth said steam now vented at the firm’s Powell River mill will be harnessed for power, reducing the plant’s draw on the grid.

“Electricity is about 30 per cent of our cost structure, so it’s a big deal,” he said.

The upgrades are expected to mean power cost savings of $17.5 million a year for the four companies.

NDP energy critic Adrian Dix said the province had no other choice but to step in with aid for the industry in light of the dramatic rate increases ahead.

“This was just going to bury them,” he said.

But Dix said government “incompetence” is to blame for the coming rate shock because of expensive power purchase deals, repeatedly deferred spending, among other decisions at BC Hydro.

“This is them desperately trying to deal with a problem they caused through inept energy policy in the past.”

Just Posted

CELEBRATING IN STYLE
Members of the 2021 Alberni District Secondary School graduating class pose for a photo at McLean Mill National Historic Site on June 12. Graduates held their prom on Saturday, although things looked a little different due to COVID-19. See more on page A10. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni 2021 grads celebrate prom with car cruise

Special event held at McLean Mill National Historic Site

The Port Alberni Bombers are one of the newest teams in the VIJHL. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni Bombers to host first ID camp for roster spots

Roster spots for the Junior B team will be filled at the conclusion of the camp

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read