Power export plan isn’t dead yet

He would never quite admit it, but former premier Gordon Campbell’s push for self-sufficiency in clean electricity has always looked to me like a long-term strategy to export hydroelectric power. It still looks that way

Former premier Gordon Campbell meets former California governor Arnold Schwarzennegger at the Copenhagen climate conference

VICTORIA – He would never quite admit it, but former premier Gordon Campbell’s push for self-sufficiency in clean electricity has always looked to me like a long-term strategy to export hydroelectric power.

It still looks that way. B.C.’s spring and summer runoff match perfectly with peak air-conditioner season in California. But the recent review of BC Hydro operations discusses how the prospects for exports have changed since Campbell’s 2007 energy plan.

The government instructed BC Hydro to wean itself off power imports by 2016, even in drought years, and obtain new capacity mostly from outside sources with net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear plants were formally ruled out.

The review of BC Hydro by three top bureaucrats acknowledges that government directions have “placed pressure on BC Hydro to increase their energy supply through increased long-term agreements with independent power producers (IPPs).”

Cue the doomsayers. Independent power production is enemy number one for BC Hydro unions. Their champion, NDP energy critic John Horgan, was immediately out with a grossly distorted version of the report. He cherry-picked statistics to compare the $124-per-megawatt hour average cost for delivering independent power with the lowest end of the spot market for electricity, which currently swings wildly from around $4 to more than $50.

In fact the report puts the average price paid for IPP power at $63.85. Compare that with the projected cost of $87 to $95 for power from Site C, the proposed third dam on the Peace River that will be BC Hydo owned and operated.

The $124 figure includes other costs, notably extending the electricity grid to connect IPPs. Horgan claims to favour wind or run-of-river for remote areas with no other clean energy option, but apparently is against hooking them up to the grid.

(Further evidence that current NDP energy policy is nonsense: Horgan opposes Site C based on an assumption of little or no growth in mines, mills or other industries such as liquefied natural gas, which an NDP government would be a good bet to deliver. He’s against smart meters for the same reason he’s against the HST – because it looks like a popular pose right now.)

When it comes to electricity exports, the important point is not what power sells for today, but what it will be worth a decade from now. And that depends on whether clean energy can command a premium price, and whether coal and other fossil fuel sources have a carbon price imposed on them.

Conventional wisdom right now is that carbon taxes and cap and trade programs are, if not dead, at least dormant in North America. Climate change has fallen off the front page as the U.S. and Europe grapple with economic troubles.

So I was surprised to find that this month Powerex, BC Hydro’s electricity trading company, wrote to the California Air Resources Board asking for clarification of the state’s proposed changes to its greenhouse gas reporting and cap and trade rules. California wants to prevent suppliers from engaging in “resource shuffling,” where a supplier such as B.C. might import coal power from Alberta for its own use, while selling supposedly clean power for export.

Considering that restriction, B.C.’s self-sufficiency rule starts to make more sense. If B.C. is not importing power, its supply must be clean.

Also, a meta-analysis on climate effects came out last week in the journal Science, detailing world-wide species migration due to warming.

Clean energy sales to California are a long way off, but it would be a mistake to reject the possibility.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

Follow me on Twitter: tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Port Alberni poet shortlisted for B.C. award

Port Alberni’s Derek Hanebury is a former instructor at North Island College

Indigenous youth connect with their culture at Gathering Our Voices workshops

Secluded Wellness Centre in Port Alberni hosted traditional wildcraft sessions

Illegal cannabis club in Port Alberni ticketed again

RCMP seize cannabis, issue fine for second time in five months

Motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash west of Whiskey Creek

Witnesses say three vehicles involved in collision; man in 70s confirmed dead

Chef returns to North Island College to inspire young cooks

Tina Tang shares her culinary journey since graduating

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

Search and rescue team helicopters injured climber from B.C. provincial park

A 30-year-old woman suffered a suspected lower-limb fracture in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Trudeau in Vancouver to support Tamara Taggart at Liberal nomination event

The former broadcaster is seeking the nomination for the Vancouver Kingsway riding

Trudeau calls May 6 byelection for B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith

The riding opened up when Sheila Malcolmson resigned in January

B.C. VIEWS: The hijacking of our education system gathers speed

Children taught to strike and shout fringe far-left demands

Judges on Twitter? Ethical guidance for those on the bench under review

Canadian judges involvement in community life are among issues under review

Most Read