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Breaking News: Bill 17 Stalled

Bill Andrews and Tom Hackney
Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Bill 17, the Clean Energy Amendment Act, 2020, will not go to second reading in the Legislature. Energy minister Bruce Ralston reportedly hit the pause button after Green Party MLAs who hold the balance of power in the Legislature refused to support the bill.

The immediate impact is to freeze potential redevelopment of BC Hydro’s former Burrard Thermal site in Port Moody – an issue of some local interest. Bill 17 would have allowed BC Hydro to sell unused portions of the site of the decommissioned natural gas generation plant. Many different future uses of the site are under debate (see “Port Moody's Burrard Thermal is powerless. Should it fire up again?” by Mario Bartel, Tri-City News).

Shelving Bill 17 also halts the proposed elimination of BC Hydro’s “self-sufficiency” planning requirement that new generation resources must be located within BC. As we explained in “Bill 17, What does it mean?,” eliminating “self-sufficiency” would have no practical impact for 10 or 15 years until BC Hydro has a shortfall of electricity supply compared to forecast load (after conservation and efficiency measures). Until then, BC Hydro has surplus energy and no “planning need” for new generation resources. In the meantime, BCSEA’s main focus is to accelerate low-carbon electrification in BC, which will not only reduce GHG emissions but also ‘sop up’ BC Hydro’s planning surplus.

BCSEA’s position expressed to the Government (see Interim Report Not Adequate, Says BCSEA, and BCSEA Comments on Phase 2 Interim Report), is that ideas like eliminating “self-sufficiency” need to be better explained and discussed with stakeholders. Eliminating “self-sufficiency,” if implemented, would not directly change BC Hydro’s power acquisitions. It would mean that when BC Hydro eventually needed new power it could consider a broader range of clean electricity options, including long- or short-term supply from outside BC. This could help to keep electricity bills lower and thus make it easier to achieve more low carbon electrification. But it has understandably triggered concerns from interests in BC that hope to develop power for sale to BC Hydro.

Should BC Hydro’s power acquisitions potentially include clean electricity from outside BC? At what cost? Under what conditions? How would this relate to the Government’s concept of a “100% clean electricity standard” and the Government’s apparent interest in fostering more regional trading of clean electricity? The stalling of Bill 17 gives an opportunity to discuss these questions more fully. See our companion article: Confidential 100% Clean Energy document publicly released.