Burrard Thermal generating station has been idle since 2016, when the gas-fired power plant was shut down. (Wikimedia Commons)

NDP changing B.C. Hydro rules to import clean electricity

‘Lots of interest’ in developing Burrard Thermal site

The B.C. NDP government is moving ahead with plans to phase out contracted private power within the province, increase clean power imports and develop the mothballed Burrard Thermal gas-fired generating plant site in the Lower Mainland, possibly for clean energy production.

Energy and Mines Minister Bruce Ralston says amendments he introduced in the B.C. legislature this week will get rid of the former B.C. Liberal government’s requirement that B.C. Hydro be self-sufficient in electricity supply, even in low-water years for its network of big dams. That decision led to construction of the Site C dam on the Peace River, and a series of private run-of-river generating projects that were bitterly opposed by the NDP.

In an interview with Black Press Media June 25, Ralston said the shift to certified clean imported power follows similar moves by Washington and California, and will allow trading of electricity between jurisdictions that qualify. Instead of requiring power to be produced in B.C., the legislation required B.C. Hydro to deliver certified clean power to all customers connected to its grid.

“It will give a certain flexibility to the utility so that it will be able to import, particularly from jurisdictions where there is a 100-per-cent clean standard, rather than the self-sufficiency requirement, which was basically designed to make sure that private power companies were able to prosper,” Ralston said.

RELATED: 15th court action dismissed against Site C dam

RELATED: B.C. geothermal potential heats up with new study

RELATED: NDP cancels B.C. Hydro clean energy purchase program

Alberta, which has coal and gas-fired electricity and was in discussions with B.C. for further grid connections, would not qualify as a clean power producer for B.C. under the amendments introduced June 23.

Ralston said private power producers like the Forrest Kerr project on the Iskut River in northwest B.C. will be around for many more years. AltaGas started that run-of-river project in 2014, with a 60-year, indexed sales contract with B.C. Hydro.

While Forrest Kerr serves a remote region, some B.C. private power projects were built or planned for export to the U.S. under former premier Gordon Campbell’s green energy plan. But the shale gas boom provided a cheap alternative to coal south of the border, making the U.S. the only major greenhouse gas producer to significantly reduce its emissions in recent years.

The ministry says B.C. Hydro will spend about $1.5 billion on independent power purchases in fiscal 2021 alone, and long-term contracts represent a future financial commitment of more than $50 billion.

The Burrard Thermal gas-fired power plant, first built in 1958 and the largest power production infrastructure in the Lower Mainland, has sat idle since 2016. Ralston says the 180-acre site on Burrard Inlet is mostly unused and is a sought-after industrial property that could be used for solar or other clean energy use.

“It’s a marvellous site,” Ralston said. “It’s connected to the gas pipeline, it’s on the water, it’s zoned for industrial use, it’s away from residential areas. So I think the potential to pursue alternate opportunities is huge.”

B.C. Hydro is prevented by heritage asset designation from selling or even leasing the site, he said, and not much can be said about the operators interested in using it.

“I wouldn’t want to predetermine what it is,” Ralston said. “There will be bidders and it will be a competitive process, but I know there is a lot of interest in the site.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan Community Centre Elder College celebrates 20th anniversary

Volunteer instructors are the key to success.

Flashback: Teddy bears, dinosaurs, cougars, oh my!

Remember these stories from Cowichan Lake?

Drivesmart column: Clear your frosty windows BEFORE driving

85 per cent of the information we require to drive safely comes to us through our eyes.

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Most Read