July 11, 2003 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Divide and Conquer 

Private energy companies given free reign to run our rivers for "green" hydro generation

Page 2 of 6

And Californians are positively frothing at the bit.

Although support for the deregulation and privatization of B.C. Hydro assets is shaky, individual independent power projects (IPPs) are largely enjoying public support because they are green and sustainable. On a case by case basis, they come up smelling pretty rosy in comparison to large scale damming and fossil fuel operations. After all, we all use electricity.

Critics, however, suggest being "green" isn’t so black and white. Stuart Smith, River Projects Coordinator for the Whitewater Kayaking Association of B.C. is looking at the big picture:

"I have a background in ecology. The raw fact is that one run-of-the-river is way more environmentally friendly than a big dam. But are 100 Rutherford IPPs, or twenty of them, more environmentally friendly than one Daisy Lake dam? It’s just not a clear question. And what about the things we just don’t understand – the impact on the frogs, the bugs, the water life, the moose or ducks?

"There are a lot of unknowns and the pace we are moving at doesn’t allow us to monitor the impacts. This thing is happening way too fast."

B.C. Hydro is playing the green card, having made a voluntary commitment to meet at least 10 per cent of new electricity demands through green energy by 2010, buying power from designated IPPs.

It’s also an issue of economics. The development of run-of-the-river comes at no cost to B.C. Hydro or taxpayers – the IPP proponent even pays the cost of modifying the transmission lines, as Edmonton IPP Epcor Power Development Corp discovered when they bought Miller Creek.

Their predecessors’ undertaking to the Pemberton community to hook Miller Creek’s power to the grid via pre-existing poles proved technically impossible and Epcor and B.C. Hydro representatives felt the full wrath of an angry public, which rapidly concluded that none of the protagonists in the run-of-the-river game can be trusted.

The full-house community meetings alerted village staff and SLRD representatives to a depth of feeling that had bubbled to the surface.

In response, they put a moratorium on IPP developments and hired consultant Jane Newlands to look at the issue.

Meanwhile, the Miller Creek run-of-the-river project was constructed and is currently being investigated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for the deposit of deleterious substances into the creek. The powerlines were upgraded.

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