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 6 of 6

LWBC is mandated to make money by issuing licences and handing out development permits. It has no environmental mandate. It’s a business for the province and IPPS generate a lot of cash.

"Then you compound that with the changes in regulatory structure on energy, and we’re going to see the independents able to sell their power through the B.C. Hydro grid to private customers, in California, in Mexico…energy on the grid becomes a commodity," said Smith.

"B.C. Hydro, which used to limit things through the EPA process and by buying all the electricity, now has no opportunity to put the reins on. Currently, the developer needs an electricity purchase agreement, so there’s no mechanism for the developer to directly get the energy out. But that will change soon. BCHydro is stepping out of the regulatory role," Smith said.

"In six of the last ten years, BC was a net exporter of power and BC Hydro made a lot of money. The IPPs work well for them. B.C. Hydro makes money storing water in a reservoir. Meanwhile, local needs are met during the day from the local IPPs and B.C. Hydro can keep its store in the dam until California has a shortage and then sell it to them at five times the price."

Arthur DeJong is confident that even IPP naysayers would support the Fitzsimmons run-of-the-river project:

"We have a decade of study on the river as we use it for snowmaking. There are no powerlines – they’re all underground. It is an industrial river. The road is already in to the potential penstock (intake). The power station would be located where our snowmaking facilities are currently located, and the fish values in the upper Fitz are marginal at best."

Unfortunately, there is simply no mechanism to evaluate the merit of an IPP, its operator, or a project’s likely impact on the ecology of the watershed.

As Opposition member and BC Citizens for Public Power supporter Joy McPhail said when debating the Transmission Corporation Act in the legislature, "The environment erodes when profits increase."

Live rivers are being harnessed to become working rivers. With the deregulation of B.C. Hydro, IPPs stand to make a lot of money.

Nobody knows what impact a hundred run-of-the-rivers will have on the ecosystem, but the primary concern seems to be to ensure that the emerging fossil fuel crisis doesn’t have an impact on our personal energy consumption.

So baby, leave the lights on for me, because there are plenty of rivers in my backyard, and it’s all green, green, green, so my eco-guilt is washed clean.

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