The B.C. NDP government’s cancellation of B.C. Hydro’s contract power program is a step toward new ways of adding clean energy to the province’s electricity grid, Energy Minister Michelle Mungall says.
B.C. Hydro has excess power now and is losing billions selling it on the North American energy market while locked into long-term contracts, but that’s not the end of the need, Mungall said in an interview with Black Press Monday.
The cancellation of B.C. Hydro’s “standing offer” program for run-of-river, wind, solar and biomass power projects leaves the door open for Indigenous energy developments to proceed.
“When we went forward with Site C we committed to working with Indigenous nations on future power procurement,” Mungall said. “A lot of Indigenous nations have seen energy as a part of economic reconciliation, but also for remote communities to get off diesel and onto more renewable sources that they own as well.”
With the Site C dam on the Peace River not scheduled to come online until 2024, new renewable projects are to be considered in the second phase of the government’s B.C. Hydro review, Mungall said. That includes removing the B.C. Liberal government’s ban on the utility owning and operating its own small projects, or allowing local governments to get into the power production business.
Mungall’s home community of Nelson has its own power utility and hydro dam on the Kootenay River that supplies more than half of its own needs, buying the rest from FortisBC.
“Would it be better for local governments to develop an asset and then have an agreement with B.C. Hydro for transmission,” Mungall said. “There is a variety of ways we can deliver the power that future generations are going to need.”
Clean Energy B.C., the industry organization for private producers, objected to the government’s characterization of billions being lost in power contracts that run for as long as 40 years. A review by a former B.C. Treasury Board official also supported the long-time NDP claim that run-of-river power comes in the spring, when B.C. Hydro’s dams may be filled to overflowing with melting snow.
“Intermittence in electricity generation is an element of the equation, but B.C.’s large storage dams provide ideal backing for a system that still has far less intermittent power than Washington State, the U.K., Denmark, Germany and many other jurisdictions,” Clean Energy B.C. said it its response. “Not all run-of-river hydro plants are affected by the spring freshet snow melt.”