Green energy project at risk 

Fitzsimmons Creek IPP challenged by rising construction costs

Photo by Maureen Provencal
  • Photo by Maureen Provencal

A green power project, set to transform the glacier-fresh water from Fitzsimmons Creek into renewable energy, is in jeopardy.

Rising constructions costs and delays due in part to the 2010 Olympics here have pushed up the capital cost of the project since it was first given the green light from BC Hydro in 2001.

"With the rising construction costs and the delays incurred because of the Sliding Centre and the whole Olympic bid that came in … the project is to the point (where we have to) reassess it and take a good hard look at whether or not it’ll go," said Ledcor project manager Kelly Boychuk this week.

The final decision to walk away from the independent power project (IPP) has not been made yet but if developers are to realize any cost savings or efficiencies from building the run of river project alongside construction of Whistler Sliding Centre a decision will need to be made soon.

Construction for the sliding centre – home of the bobsled, luge and skeleton events in 2010 – is set to begin this spring.

Despite the economic challenges facing the IPP, which are estimated at a $1 million shortfall, stakeholders are still trying to find ways to make the project work.

In the fall, energy utility Terasen reviewed the project and confirmed Ledcor’s predictions – the IPP is not economically feasible as proposed.

"We’ve undertaken a fair bit of work to try and determine whether or not the project could proceed and trying to find ways to reduce the cost of the project but at this point it would not be economic to proceed," said Terasen’s director of corporate development Dietz Kellmann.

Both Boychuk and Kellmann agree; in order to make money from the water in Fitzsimmons Creek someone needs to come up with a new and innovative idea.

The run of river project was originally slated to cost roughly $12 to $13 million. But over the past two years to cost of steel and concrete and labour has soared in B.C.

The project is now pushing the $14 million dollar mark.

Ledcor was given the go-ahead from BC Hydro in 2001 when the utility issued them an Electricity Purchase Agreement. At that time several other projects were also issued agreements, among them the Brandywine IPP, the Rutherford IPP and the Furry Creek IPP. Those agreements with Hydro marked the first step in a long list of approvals and community consultation.

All of those IPP’s are now complete and producing power in the Sea to Sky corridor.

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