Jan 4, 2011

The IPP Lobby’s Top Ten


The Vancouver Sun’s Gordon Hamilton reports that the IPP lobby, BC Citizens for Green Energy, has released a Letterman-like top ten reasons for the development of more of their run-of-river and other ‘green’ power projects. Though not as funny as Letterman, the BCCGE’s top ten could bring out a laugh, except for the serious environmental and economic issues involved.

The BCCGE states that more development of their projects would:

1. Eliminate the need for BC to import electricity from coal-fired generators in Alberta and the United States. (What they don’t say is that it would also restrict BC Hydro’s ability to import surplus hydro power during the spring run-off on the Columbia River system in the US, or the ever-increasing amounts of surplus wind power, produced at times when not needed in Alberta or the U.S. — very cost-effective clean energy imports that could greatly benefit BC Hydro’s customers).

2. Create jobs for people in BC. (True, it would create some jobs during construction, but very few during operations. On the other hand, and not mentioned by BCCGE, it would do so by driving up BC Hydro rates more than necessary, to the detriment of BC households and industry).

3. Reduce the need for hundreds of polluting diesel generators in remote regions. (For the most part it isn’t the BCCGE’s projects that might do that, it is the extension of the BC Hydro transmission system. And of course such extensions, like the proposed Northwest Transmission line, will not reduce GHG emissions because of the mining developments they are specifically intended to enable).

4. Provide new revenue for BC municipalities located near green energy projects. (Possibly true, but all paid for by BC Hydro and its customers who are being forced by government to buy power that isn’t needed at prices well above its market value).

5. Create economic activity especially in rural communities and First Nations. (Again, paid for by BC Hydro and its customers through the unnecessary, uneconomic purchase of power).

6. Exporting clean renewable electricity from BC to coal burning regions like Alberta and the US would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in North America. (That might be true if our high cost IPP exports would displace their low cost thermal power, but it won’t. It would displace the high cost renewable power they would otherwise produce on their own, raising the question, why should BC Hydro ratepayers subsidize Alberta and US greenhouse gas-reducing efforts.)

7. Produce tax revenues to help pay for healthcare education and public infrastructure. (Again, all paid for by BC Hydro and its customers. Raising water rentals or BC Hydro dividend payments would be a much simpler and environmentally preferable way for government to extract more money from ratepayers.)

8. Exporting clean renewable electricity will allow BC  to reduce its debt load and eventually eliminate the need for provincial sales tax. (Now we are venturing into Letterman territory. How forcing BC Hydro to buy power it doesn’t need, at prices well above its market value, will benefit the government’s finances and lead to the elimination of any sales tax is more than a mystery. It is a joke that doesn’t quite work).

9. Shield BC Hydro ratepayers from financial risk because the financial risk is assumed by renewable energy producers. (More Letterman. The fact is that the IPP model in BC transfers risk to BC Hydro. There isn’t one IPP development in BC where the producer has assumed the true market price risk.

10. Allows BC to be a world leader in clean energy development with relatively little environmental impact. (That might be true if the impacts were indeed small, which they aren’t. And if we developed a product that didn’t have to be subsidized and forced on BC Hydro customers by government edict).

Enough said. It is after all just another top ten.

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