B.C. powering up for green initiatives

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - British Columbia will ask private industry for a new slate of green electricity proposals in the spring, Premier Gordon Campbell says, as the government pushes to more quickly develop clean energy for the province and for export.

This new call for green power would quickly follow contracts expected to be awarded soon to companies that made proposals to BC Hydro in the last request for clean electricity - plans that were submitted a full year ago.

Mr. Campbell's announcement, in response to questions from reporters after a speech at a power producers conference, represents a redoubled effort to develop green electricity in the province.

It comes after the development process stalled in the summer and as B.C. faces fresh competition from Ontario, where the new Green Energy Act aims to spark a surge of clean-power development and lure investment dollars from elsewhere.

Speaking to industry leaders at a lunchtime address, Mr. Campbell said he wanted to deliver a clear and unequivocal message that B.C. backs clean-power development.

"Clean energy will be a cornerstone," Mr. Campbell said as he also officially announced a new "green energy advisory task force" to report to the Premier and cabinet to accelerate green-power development.

In B.C., green developers have focused on wind power and run-of-river energy. The latter has been controversial and attracted protest. Run-of-river projects pull water out of mountain streams and move it through a turbine to generate electricity before the water is returned to the river.

Opponents have various grievances: They are against private power generation; they worry about the impact on fish; they say too many projects will be built; and they are against the export of electricity.

Outside of the Vancouver hotel where Mr. Campbell spoke, a half-dozen people demonstrated, including one person in a salmon costume.

The province's last green development process was plunged into disarray in July when the BC Utilities Commission, a regulator, told BC Hydro that the plans for new clean power weren't in the public interest. Among the conclusions, the commission said that BC Hydro had overestimated electricity demand and that the old natural gas-fuelled Burrard Generating Station could be relied upon for additional power.

Mr. Campbell's government effectively quashed the ruling when it told the utilities commission that BC Hydro needs to cut its reliance on the greenhouse-gas-spewing Burrard facility, a decision the government said in August that it was planning to make.

As part of the stop-go green power process, the provincial government has explicitly made exports part of its goals, which gives it and BC Hydro leeway to call for as much development as it thinks private industry is willing to handle.

Companies are still somewhat skittish after the confusing summer. Paul Sweeney, president of developer Plutonic Power Corp., which organized yesterday's conference, said he wants to see the results of last year's green-power call before thinking about the new one Mr. Campbell said will come in the spring.

Plutonic, with partner General Electric Co., is developing a run-of-river project north of Vancouver. It had submitted a large proposal to BC Hydro in last year's green-power call.



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