July 4, 2008

Utility seeking to capitalize on BC energy oversupply cites environmental problems

June 26, 2008

Burnaby, BC – A major California utility that is seeking ways to exploit BC’s projected oversupply of electricity says that Run of River hydro projects do not conform to California’s environmental standards and thus make purchases uneconomical.

The report, entitled “BC Renewable Study Phase 1,” was written for the Pacific Gas and Electricity Company (PGE), based in San Francisco. The report was obtained by the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, Local 378 (MoveUP), which represents workers throughout the BC utility sector.

“It is a shame that the people of BC have to hear from an energy company in California that run of river generation is not green, not sustainable, and not economical,” said Andy Ross, President of MoveUP. “Unfortunately, the BC government seems content to hide behind its green veneer and hope that no one in BC notices how destructive and unnecessary this type of development is,” said Ross.

The PGE study examines the feasibility and options for building a transmission line from BC to California in order to take advantage of an oversupply of electricity resulting from the 2007 BC Energy Policy. The report states, however, that under California environmental laws “BC ROR hydro facilities would not be qualified,” as clean, environmentally-friendly renewable energy because of their significant environmental impacts.

The PGE report cites the large size of run of river dams, the impacts on stream volume, timing, and flow, and the “adverse impact on instream beneficial uses” as the major concerns that would disqualify independent run of river power (IPPs). 

The report bluntly states: “BC ROR Hydro facilities will not meet any of these criteria.”

“Even energy-starved California says that that these projects entail too many negative environmental consequences,” said Ross. “Yet the BC government continues to raise our Hydro rates 24% to pay for this environmentally-damaging surplus that we might not even be able to sell,” added Ross.

“Why exactly are we rushing to generate all of this expensive new power which will result in a surplus that we can’t even sell to our biggest market?” asked Ross. “This energy plan is running on empty.” 

The PGE report offers more proof that the government’s drive to develop private power resources was to create an energy surplus to sell to California.

The Provincial Budget released earlier this year stated that BC Hydro rates will be raised 24.2% over the next three years largely to pay for the rapidly increasing costs of privately-produced power. Furthermore, a report from SFU Economist Dr. Marvin Shaffer explains that the main impetus for the government’s energy policy is to generate a large electricity surplus for export. 

MoveUP and its flagship Take Back the Power campaign have been calling for a moratorium on private power development to allow a comprehensive review on the cumulative environmental and economic impacts of the proliferation of privately owned and operated run of river projects in BC.