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 5 of 6

Impacts are only considered on an individual, site-specific basis. The fact that neither B.C. Hydro or the LWBC are providing any overarching regulation or plan, nor scrutinizing projects for merit in any way, is precisely the issue identified by Jane Newlands, consultant for the SLRD.

Industry insiders argue that there are natural limitations to the proliferation of micro-hydro developments.

John Johnson of Cloudworks Energy explains:

"What you have to understand is that B.C. Hydro is the only buyer for this power and, as of the moment, there is only one more call for next year and only two to three projects will be accepted. Few will meet the social economic and environmental hurdles required to make something of their application. Unless something changes with B.C. Hydro, that’s all that are going to be actually being developed. We have 19 applications and we’re hoping that four of them might be realized."

Now that B.C. Hydro has created a separate entity to handle transmission operations, more opportunities might be opening to IPPs.

"Up until now (B.C. Hydro) didn’t want anyone messing around with their lines," said Johnson. "They didn’t want the risk that someone could endanger their responsibility to provide power to B.C. But now there is a supply shortage looming. The landscape has changed, and they have to allow others to transmit energy, otherwise they lose their U.S. energy export licence which is very important to them."

The wild card is the newly created entity B.C. Transmission Corporation, which could potentially enable IPPs to deal directly with export customers, bypassing B.C. Hydro altogether.

And this open season on BC rivers is what is most frightening to river-watchers like Stuart Smith.

"There is this myth touted by everyone that not all 76 water licence applications will proceed. But that is a myth. LWBC give the water licences and the land tenures and LWBC has no mechanism to say no to a project. They will hear all applications and can only ask for mitigation.

"The Kayaking Association spent two years hounding the provincial government to come up with a big scale development plan, but there is none, so LWBC just takes them in the order they receive them. There are 20 to 25 in the works right now.

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