Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Green power projects, now what?

There is a "perfect storm" brewing with respect to green power production in BC.

  • BC Hydro is once again in full control of the transmission grid
  • BC Hydro has started down the Site C project path and has become blinkered to all other power sources
  • The BC Hydro corporate culture is once again strongly for large projects and against small private projects
  • The NDP has made it clear that it is not open to the idea of more private power
  • The recent cabinet shuffle is going to mean months of uncertainty about who can make what decisions and as we get closer May 2013 the time between the permission to go ahead and the next government coming to power is too short to get into the ground and underway.

These five factors could see a dramatic slowing in more green power coming online in BC.   We will see an ongoing slowing in the green power business for the next four to five years.   What will push a resurgence in the business in the future is a growing demand in the Western Interconnect for carbon neutral electrical power.

Within five years there will be more demand to see coal fired power plants shut down and ideally gas fired ones as well.    At the same time demand will be rising in this region of the grid.   The ability of wind, geothermal, solar and wave to provide any significant portion of the power within the next decade is minimal.   Nuclear is going to become very popular and there may even be some projects started, but the lead time for nuke is very long.   The lead time for a large scale hydro project like Site C also takes years till it is online.  There will be a large demand for green power that can quickly come online and only one affordable source, run of the river power.

BC has a huge potential for run of the river power and no matter what happens in the next five years, the demand for this power will be there in 2015 even more so than now.   It is unfortunate that the industry is likely to go through a number of years of troubles before the political climate changes.