Closing Burrard Thermal a Costly Mistake: Throne Speech Response

August 25, 2009

Announcement that BC Government will Force Closure Will Hurt Economy

August 25, 2009

Burnaby, BC – The announcement in today’s Throne Speech that the government intends to force the closure of the strategic Burrard Thermal generating plant is a mistake that threatens the security of the Lower mainland’s energy supply and will drive rates up, said the union which represents employees at private and public utilities across BC, the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, Local 378 (MoveUP).

“Burrard Thermal is a strategic resource that BC depends on to meet its energy needs in times of high demand,” said David Black, MoveUP Acting President. “Instead of retrofitting the facility so that businesses and residents across BC can depend on an affordable emergency back up for when demand skyrockets, the government is forcing the closure, and doing so for one reason only: to artificially inflate the demand for expensive private power,” added Black.

The August 25 Throne Speech states that the government intends to order the BC Utilities Commission to accede to the closure, despite the Commission’s July ruling that such a move is not in the best interests of British Columbia residents, businesses, or industry.

The Burrard Thermal generating plant is currently used only during times of high electricity demand, typically in the winter, as a strategic back up facility to ensure that the region’s electricity needs are met. If the facility is decommissioned altogether, the region will lose this secure source of supply for periods when electricity is at its highest prices. This will impact negatively on commercial, industrial, and residential ratepayers while threatening the overall security of electricity supply.

Most run of river projects are unable to produce electricity during the winter due to elevations and severe weather conditions.

“This is an ideological decision that is bad for business, bad for industry, and bad for all of BC,” said Black. “This is a conclusion that has been reached by academics, conservationists, environmentalists, the region’s municipalities – including Port Moody – and by the BCUC, the government’s own expert body of advisors,” added Black.

“Despite the chorus of support for this strategic resource, the two things that Burrard Thermal accomplishes that the government and their private power friends simply can’t abide are simple: it keeps rates low and guarantees security of supply,” said Black, adding “and there’s just no money to be made that way.”

It is the position of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378 that Burrard Thermal should be retrofitted and re-equipped so that it can continue to serve in this backup capacity while measures are taken to make its use carbon neutral.