BC Hydro is implementing a Standing Offer Program to encourage the development of small and clean energy projects throughout British Columbia. The Program is a process to purchase energy from small projects with a nameplate capacity greater than 0.05 megawatts but not more than 10 megawatts.
The intent of this Standing Offer Program is to allow small power producers to join the grid whenever they are ready.
In previous years, BC Hydro has issued a number of calls for power with varying requirements of the projects and participants. While these calls were successful in obtaining power for the province from both small and large sources, both BC Hydro and the provincial government were concerned that the administrative burden of participation in the calls was too great for small developers.
Hydro has been working on the program for two years with independent power producers, and it was approved in March by the B.C. Utilities Commission. Through a series of informal stakeholder engagement sessions and written comments, the Program has been designed to:
- Simplify the process, the contract and its administration;
- Decrease the costs of participation for developers while remaining cost-effective for the ratepayer; and
- Meet the need identified by the BC Energy Plan and embody its policies and principles.
Small power generating projects involving run-of-river, landfill gas, wind, solar, co-generation at industrial sites, and other green technology will qualify.
Hydro will pay between $71.37 and $84.23 per megawatt hour for power from small producers, which is more or less in line with the $71 to $74 amounts contracted in Hydro’s major 2006 call for power.
There is also a $3.10-per-megawatt-hour bonus for producers who get eco-certification.
The Standing Offer Program has been developed under the BC Energy Plan: A Vision for Clean Energy Leadership released in February of 2007. The plan requires BC to seek out renewable energy sources and achieve a 50% reduction in energy from efficiency measures.
'The BC Energy Plan provides made-in-B.C. solutions to the global challenge of ensuring secure, reliable and affordable energy,' said Richard Neufeld, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. 'The Province will require zero net greenhouse gas emissions from all new electricity projects and support the development of clean energy technology. This plan balances the economic opportunities available from our wide range of natural resources while leading the world in sustainable environmental management.'
BC Hydro will be holding an information session on May 6, 2008 in Vancouver to review the Program Rules and the application process. This session is intended for developers that are ready, or are planning, to submit an application. BC Hydro is also planning to hold regional information sessions over the coming months. Details on these sessions will be posted shortly on the BC Hydro website.
There are more than 8,000 sites in the province with the potential to be developed as run-of-river power projects, a study commissioned by B.C. Hydro and the B.C. Transmission Corporation has found.
All together, the 8,242 sites would have a potential installed capacity of more than 12,000 megawatts and could generate nearly 50,000 gigawatt hours of energy per year, the November 2007 report, prepared by Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd., says
There are many micro-hydro energy projects being developed in BC, as well as other forms of energy generation such as waste-to-energy, solar power and wind energy.
Proponents of an offshore wind farm in B.C.’s Hecate Strait, for example, the NaiKun Wind Group, is proposing to spend more than $1 billion to install between 64 and 100 turbines off the east coast of Haida Gwaii and will be putting forward a bid to B.C. Hydro during its next call for green power projects.
Despite the benefits and apparent need for renewable energy in BC, there has been some resistance to such projects based on potential impacts to the local environment (see GLOBE-Net article Small hydro projects - renewable or ruinous?).
In early April eight run-of-river projects in the Upper Pitt River region were denied approval by BC Minister of the Environment Barry Penner after significant resistance from the public. Opposition argued the projects would harm the wetlands and surrounding area of the Park as well as a resurgent wolf population.
According to industry experts the fatal flaw of the project was an apparent disregard for the environmental impacts.
The incident clearly illustrates that, although renewable energy is preferable to conventional energy, there are still challenges to introducing it to BC.