B.C. needs to set example on using natural gas for energy

A couple of op-ed pieces in the April 21, 2016, issue caused me to write this.

The first piece is from the Honourable Richard Neufeld, where he indicates concern that many have for debt being accumulated. He suggests an additional $100 billion will have been borrowed by the next federal election. When one draws a comparison to the debt and “contractual obligations” accumulated by BC Hydro which, with the ever-increasing cost of the Site C dam project will be very near $100 billion, illustrates how much rates will have to increase to pay for expensive power being purchased from IPPs and being sold at a loss. The ratepayer base for BC Hydro is substantially smaller than the base that would be paying off federal government debt.

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The so-called Clean Energy Act that requires purchase of this expensive power from IPPs and exempts the Site C dam project from BCUC oversight needs to be changed as it also prevents use of natural gas burning facilities like the Burrard Thermal Plant located right next to the Lower Mainland electrical load.

As Mr. Yu writes in his piece, B.C. is awash in clean burning natural gas that we are prevented from using here by the so called Clean Energy Act. If B.C. residents and the current government of Premier Clark in particular want to encourage China and Japan to burn gas produced here, she needs to set an example by using the Burrard Thermal facility, which will create jobs in this area producing and shipping gas to that facility.

A facility that is currently owned by BC Hydro, ratepayers would enjoy lesser rates than the newly commissioned Enmax Shepherd plant in Calgary, which has an upfront capital cost and still is selling power for over 20 per cent less than B.C. rates. Burrard Thermal is an integral part of the B.C. grid and could be used to offset the high price paid for IPP purchases, as well as showing the world the actual results of using gas vs. coal.

And the overall benefit for all could be to negate the requirement to build the Site C dam, saving ratepayers over $10 billion paying for a project that, due to its BCUC exemption, has not been issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Need, or in other words been proven to be necessary.

We cannot force countries around the world to purchase B.C. gas and only have to look east to Alberta to see the resistance to the loss of jobs precipitated by their move away from coal-generated power. Chinese coal miners might react the same way.

We can only encourage the use of cleaner fuels through a global effort and by allowing market forces to work. River estuaries should not be impacted when more suitable sites exist and could be purchased from other project proponents. If dumping dredged materials increased salmon productivity as Mr. Yu suggests, biologists would likely have been pursuing that activity, but it seems unlikely many would recommend doing so.

The subtle message seen recently is that opponents of the Site C dam are also opposed to natural gas production and, in many cases, this is simply not true. The next time you talk to an opponent of the dam, ask them what they think. A good many of them realize that there is potential for B.C. to use this plentiful resource to avoid the further borrowing of many billions, creating generations of debt as Senator Neufeld points out, and to save destruction of the Peace River valley, while creating jobs locally.

Bob Fedderly, Charlie Lake

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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