BC Hydro

Takin’ care of business, every day and every way

abc27-christy“This project is not ‘run-of-river. It involves draining alpine lakes by levels of 60 feet in depth, diverting waterfalls and clearcutting linear swaths for power lines and penstocks. This will permanently industrialize a local pristine fjord for the sole purpose of private profit.”

I read a letter to the editor published by The Tri-Cities Now, March 11, 2015. Since it adds information about the Narrows Inlet project that has been discussed here previously, it is worth republishing:

I was disappointed to read a letter by BC Liberal MLA Linda Reimer regarding closing of Burrard Thermal in the Feb 20th edition of the Tri-Cities NOW.

In her letter, Ms. Reimer stated NDP MLA Selena Robinson was misleading constituents and creating an issue where there isn’t one. I submit Ms. Reimer is the one misleading constituents when speaking of a $14-million-a-year saving to B.C. ratepayers. I invite her response to the BC Liberal decision to proceed with more private power contracts, of which the recently approved Narrows Inlet Hydro project on the Sunshine Coast is a prime example.

Based on their Energy Purchase Agreement from BC Hydro, this project alone will represent an approximate $10-million-per year obligation by BC Hydro ratepayers. This project is not “run-of-river.” It involves draining alpine lakes by levels of 60 feet in depth, diverting waterfalls and clearcutting lineal swaths for power lines and penstocks. This will permanently industrialize a local pristine fjord for the sole purpose of private profit.

Unlike Burrard Thermal, and like the majority of IPP (independent power producer) hydro projects, it cannot provide power when we most need it. The water mysteriously goes hard in the winter. The Narrows Inlet project is far removed from point of use, and unlike Burrard Thermal, relies on a spider web of transmission lines to supply power to our area.

Narrows Inlet is but one example of approving private projects over the continuing use of our already paid for, economically feasible and publicly owned Burrard Thermal. It is with equal disappointment I see Ms. Reimer disregard comments made by Martin Cavin in his letter to the editor of Feb 27, which refuted all of Ms. Reimer’s comments.

This is not a left or right thing; it is about looking after our province. Our current (no pun intended) provincial government is following the lead of the federal Harper government by way of stifling those knowledgeable in the field.

I challenge Ms. Reimer to justify her concern for greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution when Premier Christy Clark has proclaimed burning of natural gas exempt from any such worries if used for LNG export purposes, yet not the case when a publicly owned facility is involved.


Following is the Martin Cavin letter referenced above. It is by a writer who has knowledge of his subject gained by years of direct experience:

I retired in 2013 after working 24 years as a power engineer at Burrard Thermal. I take issue with many of the statements about Burrard made by MLA Linda Reimer in her letter to the editor.

If Hydro needed Burrard to run non-stop at full output for decades, perhaps $1 billion would be required to refurbish the plant. But Burrard’s ideal role is a standby plant for system emergencies and for meeting peak loads during the winter months. The plant would typically run no more than 10 per cent of the year and the cost to refurbish it for this role would be closer to five per cent of what Ms. Reimer suggests.

Burrard’s efficiency is typical for a standby plant. No electrical utility spends billions to build highly efficient standby plants that sit idle most of the time. Nor are millions spent installing advanced pollution control equipment.

Burrard is an exception, with equipment that reduces its nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 per cent. At 900 megawatts (MW) output for 10 per cent of the year, annual nitrogen oxide emissions would be 85 tonnes out of a Lower Fraser Valley total of 55,000 tonnes. In comparison a single LNG export terminal burning gas would emit over 3,000 tonnes of such emissions annually.

As for greenhouse gas emissions, Burrard on 10 per cent standby would emit less than one per cent of B.C.’s total. A single LNG export terminal burning gas would emit 10 times the greenhouse gases of a standby Burrard. Ms. Reimer should read BC Hydro’s 20-year Integrated Resource Plan, released Nov. 2013 (Google “BC Hydro IRP”). Of interest is Chapter 9 – Recommended Actions. There is a contingency plan which shows what Hydro needs to do if its very aggressive energy conservation program is only partially successful.

The critical shortage would be capacity, meaning Hydro would not have enough generators to supply peak loads. Burrard is ideal for providing such capacity. The capacity chart on page 9-78 shows that peaking power may have to be imported (from the U.S. or Alberta) as early as 2016, the same year that Burrard is shut down. This power, 40 per cent of which is coal generated, may not always be available and could cost up to $1,000 a megawatt hour. In addition new gas-fired peaking plants could be required in B.C. as early as 2018. Saying that $14 million a year is saved by closing Burrard is only half the equation.

What is the cost to replace the lost 900 MW? I challenge Ms. Reimer to show where this much capacity can be reliably obtained elsewhere that is cheaper and cleaner than Burrard.

In past years such issues were reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission, which determined that shutting down Burrard would end up costing Hydro more money than it would save.



9 replies »

  1. Thanks for this. I am amazed that we're still finalizing more deals for power we don't need at prices we can't afford. There is an irony involved in BC Hydro agreeing to buy interruptable power from the Sechelt peninsula at a price almost 3 times what they're going to sell non-interruptable power to an LNG operation in Howe Sound.

    Can Liberals explain the logic of that or should be just presume that someone's Swiss bank account is growing larger.


  2. You got that right. This one is no where near starting construction and highly unlikely to be able to make the commencement of delivery date guaranteed in their contract…..as a matter of fact, they are still working on finalizing design so it can work at all. That didn't stop Polak and Bennett from merrily signing off on it though. This IPP is going to make so much money from us that it appears they are not concerned about paying any late completion charges that may apply.

    Pull the plug on this and all the other ones while we can. No pun intended.


  3. In 2013…. “When I said to Hydro ‘find ways to spend less,’ I wasn’t specifically thinking about buying less electricity,” Bennett said “They came back and said these IPP proponents have not performed, we could get out of those contracts, or perhaps defer delivery to a date in time when we need the electricity.”

    ” Bennett wouldn’t identify which of the 48 projects under development are due for cancellation or delay, but BC Hydro estimates cancellations will cut back its contractual commitments to buy 1,600 gigawatts of electricity per year by 2021. In 2012, it bought 10,827 gigawatt hours of power from IPPs.”

    “NDP energy critic John Horgan greeted Bennet’s announcement as good news that “sends a message to the IPP community, the so-called clean energy community, that the party is over and that feasting at BC Hydro is coming to an end. I think that’s good news for ratepayers.”

    ” However, Bennett said he believes the NDP opposition’s argument is “dishonest” for declaring IPP power too expensive.”

    So according to the great mind of Bill Bennett….. over 53 Billion is not that expensive. (currently owed)

    Guy in Victoria


  4. The good Minister might want to huddle with his cohort Minister Coleman to think about ways to keep Burrard Thermal around. Since Coleman has been so generous with subsidies to producers he could take some production in kind and fuel Burrard Thermal for free. It don't expect anything of the sort to ever occur as that's would make sense and no insiders would get the heavy wallet feeling.


  5. This whole power thing was thought up years ago by a group that planned to run BC Hydro into bankruptcy than claim that private enterprise could do it better and pick up what's left for a song. Even better the taxpayers will end up funding most of the debacle before they cash in.

    They are probably pleasantly surprised that their plan has progressed as quickly as the people of BC voted in the Liberals for another four years of rape and pillage. Gordon Campbell started this tearing down of BC Hydro and Christy Clark is continuing on. Give it another couple of years and the Peace River project should finish what is left of BC Hydro.
    In the end the people of BC will be paying some of the highest power prices in North America and will have no one to blame but themselves.



  6. Back when IPPs were a glimmer in the eye of Gordon Campbell and his circle of influence and affluence, and I was testing my mettle, paddling many of the classic stretches of whitewater on BC's rivers and creeks, a preferred/trusted padding companion, an engineer/consultant by profession, had done his own analysis and number crunching around IPPs. He concluded that there was no possible way these new run-of-river power generation schemes could be viable without being underwritten by government or by way of outrageously inflated kWh pricing. Turns out he was correct.
    Ah yes – the unimpeachable BC Liberals – the only fiscally capable and prudent managers of the peoples' money.


  7. I wonder if BC Hydro properties division has had anymore requests from the executive to determine how much the Burrard Thermal property is worth?
    Now, ask yourself why would they need that info?


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