BC tables Clean Energy Act
May 4, 2010 by Andrew Lord
On April 28, the government of British Columbia announced the introduction of a new Clean Energy Act. According to the press release, the Clean Energy Act "sets the foundation for a new future of electricity self-sufficiency, job creation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, powered by unprecedented investments in clean, renewable energy across the province." Like Ontario's Green Energy Act, the proposed legislation will substantially revamp BC's electricity sector, including BC Hydro and the BC Utilities Commission ("BCUC"), and introduce several new programs, including a Feed-in Tariff, to promote the development of clean energy in the province.
A full copy of Bill 17, which would enact the Clean Energy Act, is available here. Backgrounders and other information are available here. The remainder of this posting is based primarily on these materials. More in-depth analysis will follow.
The Clean Energy Act defines 16 energy objectives for BC:
The following provides some additional detail about some of the key initiatives:
The Clean Energy Act will enable BC Hydro to re-price the existing Standard Offer Program to reflect the results of recent power calls, includes the option to increase the maximum project size above 10 MW, and allows for technologies to be specified.
The Act also sets the stage for a Feed-In Tariff program to foster the development of emerging technologies in renewable power production. The program will focus on supporting emerging technologies that can supply power from B.C.'s diverse renewable resources. The details of the program, that will be developed by the government and BC Hydro in consultation with industry, will be established through regulation. BC will no doubt look to Ontario's Feed-in Tariff program, which has been widely lauded as a world class program, for inspiration.
The Act also contemplates net metering, which would allow customers who generate less than 50 kilowatts from their own renewable sources could get credit on their bills for the power they generate.
BC Hydro and the government plan to implement a number of programs and reforms to promote conservation and efficiency, including:
The low-rate benefits that come from B.C.'s existing and future heritage assets will flow exclusively to British Columbians and will not be used to subsidize foreign power sales. The Clean Energy Act adds the following new and proposed projects to the list of protected heritage assets: the Waneta dam and generating facility, Site C, Mica Dam expansion, Revelstoke Dam expansion, and Northwest Transmission Line.
The government will strengthen BC Hydro to help deliver the Province's clean energy objectives. The Clean Energy Act will consolidate BC Hydro and BC Transmission Corporation to provide a single entity that will plan and deliver the clean energy required to meet British Columbia's growing demand for electricity while fostering job creation throughout the province and helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The strengthened BC Hydro will be responsible for a number of initiatives under the Clean Energy Act, including:
The Clean Energy Act will reform the BCUC to ensure that the manner in which the BCUC oversees the electricity market is aligned with provincial energy objectives and the manner in which BC Hydro has been charged to implement those priorities.
The Act also exempts a number of "marquee" clean energy projects and programs from obtaining BCUC approval, including:
The BCUC will also be required to consider and be guided by the Integrated Resource Plan prepared by BC Hydro, once that Plan has been approved by the government.
BC Hydro will replace all of BC Hydro's 1.8 million customer meters with digital, solid state, smart electricity meters. Equipped with two way communications capability, smart meters will enable in-home display of information and provide customers with more detailed information about their electricity use than a conventional electro-mechanical meter. Smart meter data will also help BC Hydro and local distribution companies plan infrastructure upgrades and implement conservation and efficiency incentive programs.
BC estimates that the cost of the Smart Metering Program and initial Smart Grid Program will be $930 million, but that the positive net present value of the initiatives will approach $500 million over the next 20 years.
Under current policy, BC Hydro does not contract for long-term export power sales. Under the new Clean Energy Act, BC Hydro will be able to secure long-term export power agreements at market rates that make the best use of available clean energy. BC Hydro will fill those contractual energy needs with clean power calls that produce new power from renewable power projects in regions across B.C. BC Hydro will also use its grid management infrastructure and expertise to firm and shape power to ensure a reliable supply of power for export.
Stay tuned for developments.