Who would have thought that the government of BC who was a strong leader over most jurisdictions in its clean energy policies, carbon tax, and reduction of greenhouse gas targets would have a proposed Integrated Resource Plan(IRP) that had no new opportunities for clean energy for the next 20 years. When the IRP was released in August 2013, it shocked many people, most of all the renewable energy industry.
Since the release of the draft IRP, First Nations and the Clean Energy industry have been voicing their concerns to BC Hydro and the BC Government. On October 28, 2013 the Minister of Energy Bill Bennett told delegates at Generate 2013 (the yearly conference of Clean Energy BC) there would be future options for clean energy in the IRP. Welcome news when he said there would be opportunity for Clean Energy in the IRP but he did give some cautions. Any energy created has to be affordable to the tax payer and must be balanced with all the other interests. Bennett said there had to be a demand for electricity and right now that demand is down.
Minister Bennett did not commit to requiring any LNG producers to use renewable energy. He stated that LNG producers can produce power they need in any way they want as that is the only way they will entice them to BC. Interesting that this industry can write their own ticket in BC for how they operate when no other industry can do the same. In a recent study conducted by Clean Energy BC on Economic Impacts of the Clean Energy Sector on BC First Nations, it was reported that the future potential for First Nations if they had 25% of forecast load LNG and Upstream Gas that would translate into 3000 MW of clean Energy, $2.5 Billion income to First Nations, 9500 First Nations construction jobs. This indeed would be transformational economic development.
Interesting that throughout Generate 2013 presentations by Minister Bennett, Minister Rustad, Minister Thomson and Charles Reid, President and CEO for BC Hydro, they acknowledge how important the Clean Energy Sector is to the BC Economy and the production of 20% of the electricity on the grid. Minister Bennett said the Premier, Cabinet and BC Hydro are our biggest supporters, can't do without us as energy providers and recognize that clean energy industry is a $50 billion one plus thousands of jobs. Funny, that support didn't translate into the draft IRP when the government would have given instructions to BC Hydro.
Minister Rustad announced another round of funding from the Clean Energy Business Fund. Shishalh Nation and Sts'ailes First received an investment of $500,000 for their equity projects and 12 other First Nations will receive funds to help with feasibility and development costs. Interestingly one of them was a feasibility study by Lake Babine Nation who will look at bringing a district biomass heating system using wood chips online. The Okanagan Indian Band will use their funds to develop a community energy plan assessing solar, wind, biomass and hydropower potential in their territory, as well as energy-saving opportunities. Once feasibility and assessment is done and First Nations start developing these projects and they will need a market to sell them to. The IRP must necessarily have opportunities for First Nations for the investment the BC Government is making in them.
Minister Bennett and BC Hydro reiterated that the IRP is a snapshot in time, a living document and can be changed at any time and as things change will be amended. Any industry needs certainty of opportunity and if the IRP does not include clean energy now, what would the future be? If there was to be no opportunity, companies would go elsewhere to develop and a valuable industry could be lost to BC. Sober second thought by the BC Government and BC Hydro will prevent this from happening and the revised IRP will hopefully reflect a feasible opportunity.
What are some possibilities for the IRP? A Clean Energy call specifically for First Nations. A requirement of the energy need by LNG to be powered by electricity, not just natural gas. Use of carbon credits as offsets to the burning of natural gas. Having net metering be increase to at least 1000kW to integrate smaller projects to the grid. That the Standing offer program be increased to 50 MW with uncertainties and delays removed. There has to be room to be able to develop wind, biomass, and other forms of renewable power that cannot be created under 15 MW due to the costs of development. Regional opportunities for security of energy throughout the province. There are many, many solutions that can be integrated into the IRP and I hope there will be fruitful discussions and embracing of First Nations ideas that will be in the revised IRP going to government on November 15, 2013.
The Clean Energy Industry which is inclusive of many First Nations in BC have been working on saving an industry that has been valuable to them, to the economy of BC and to the environment. It is good news that BC Hydro is going to include a clean energy strategy in the IRP and the BC Government supports that. First Nations and the industry are working to make the IRP something meaningful for the economic viability of the industry. As the future of the renewable/clean industry is on the line, the inclusion of First Nations in the IRP is crucial for the many different types of benefits to flow to them and for First Nations to continue to be players in an industry they view as sustainable.
Note: First Nations took center stage at Clean Energy BC Awards: shishahl Nation won the Environmental Award, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation won the Community Award and Namgis won the Finance Award. First Nations are a vital part of the clean Energy industry and must remain so.
NOTES FROM BILL BENNETT Speech on History of Clean Energy in past 20 Years
2001: 23 Clean Energy Projects 2002: Energy Plan-included strong support for Clean Energy 2003/2006/2008: Clean Energy Calls 2007: Energy Plan (93% energy must be clean policy) 2008: Standing Offer Plan of under 10 MW instituted 2009: Bio-energy sector gets $16.9 million-invests in 28 projects 2010: Clean Energy Act/policies 2011: First Nation Clean Energy Business Fund started-$5 million Clean Energy Industry represent $50 billion investment and 20% of energy supply 50 Clean Energy projects have come on line since 2001 45 projects are in development Recent: $4 billion in investment-1800 jobs
(My Comment: Not an industry that should be left out of the energy future of this province)