Friday, August 21, 2009

Confusing signals from utlities Commission leave First Nations asking questions

The goal of clean, reliable and self sufficient energy and economic growth for First Nations of the Northwest is going to have to get a rethink after the BC Utilities Commission’s recent decision to not approve some local power initiatives.

Both Tricorp and the Haida Nation were looking at investments into some clean power projects in the Northwest to not only provide energy for their regions but to spur on some economic growth in the hard hit areas of the Northwest.

Now those plans are up for review with many questions still to be answered, the Daily News examined the fall out from the BCUC decision with an item in the Friday paper.

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, August 7, 2009
Pages one and five

BCUC decision makes little sense to local IPP investors.

A BC Utilities Commission decision last week will have more ramifications than just the obvious injury to private industry proponents of BC Hydro's Clean power Call.

Independent power Producers come in many different shapes and colours and one of them would be Tricorp, who believed that IPP projects were going to be a safe investment for First Nations investors.

The BCUC has determined that the province cannot sell long-term acquisition plans through BC Hydro.

This decision was based upon assessing what it believes to be the best deal taxpayers can get when it comes to power projects.

And it could make the current investment field more treacherous than before.

"Absolutely it does. This is the whole private-public debate again. By the BCUC making this decision it basically means that they are favouring Burrard Thermal. And to us it is outrageous that they would think they should make that decision," said Tricorp COO, Peter Lantin.

What Lantin means is, if the BCUC decision was based solely on economic principles, then it will- only accept an increased use of the Burrard Thermal reactor in lower mainland.

That power plant is considered to be a large emitter of greenhouse gases, which to Lantin goes against the whole rationale for a clean power call.

"We will have to see if it's going to be publicly accepted," said Lantin.

The decision has some consequences for Aboriginal communities that see the IPP, and especially run-of-river projects, as the answer to some hard economic climates.

Council of the Haida Nation vice president, Arnie Bellis, said Haida government is also very upset with the decision because it could effect any plans to help communities on Haida Gwaii get off diesel generated power.

As noted yesterday, the BCUC decision could affect NaiKun Wind Energy's nO-wind turbine power project in Hecate Strait, by possibly dissuading investment into the firm.

The Haida, along with other communities on the province's northern-most islands, believe that a clean source of wind power could help them get off diesel power most days, using diesel only when necessary.

"Part of their decision was based on making it in the best interest of the people of B. C. to fire up this old energy plant. That is not their job to look after the best interests of the citizens of B.C. That in fact is the government's. And last I checked, that is Gordon Campbell and his government," said Bellis.

In May, Tricorp announced a new fund that would support Aboriginal involvement in renewable energy hydro projects in British Columbia. Under a $7 million partnership between Tricorp, the federal government, and the Tale'awtxw Aboriginal Capital Corporation (TACC) Ecotrust Canada Capital, a subsidiary corporation of Ecotrust was to manage the fund, and the first investment was for a two megawatt IPP on the Taku First Nation territory near Atlin.

The BCUC decision adds a little more to the controversy over different run-of-river power projects.

"It doesn't close the door to run-of-river calls. But it definitely limits the amount that the BCUC is looking at purchasing," said Lantin.

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