The most recent issue of BC Business magazine includes a story by Don Whiteley about the difficulties a local renewable power developer has run into attempting to secure permission to construct a multi-site run-of-river on the upper Pitt River adjacent to B.C.'s Lower Mainland region (see Power Play, BC Business, July 2008).
The most recent issue of
Generally, I agree with the premise that project development is tolerated little if at all in B.C., much more so than in most other jurisdictions. Having lived in the province for much of my life, I would have to say there is little tolerance for new development of any kind (I also think there is a certain naivety about where the wealth will come from to support the lifestyle the province enjoys but that's an argument for another time).
That being said, I am cautious about the kinds of general conclusions this and similar articles tend to draw from these sagas.
To recap, Run of River Power Inc. has proposed a series of seven run-of-river projects on the upper Pitt together with a small-scale transmission line to connect the projects to the grid, and that would traverse a local provincial park. The project recently had its application for the transmission line pulled by the province's Environment Minister, Barry Penner, no doubt not wanting to see a substantial "environmental" opposition form at a time when the Premier was trying to paint his government green with aggressive plans to address climate change (see CEO Shocked by BC Minister's decision to Block Power Project, CBC.ca, March 27th, 2008).
Mr. Whiteley chooses to focus on the opposition to the transmission line and the apparent contradiction in the opposition's position given that there is already one transmission running through the local park and another planned, both owned by the province's transmission operator, BC Transmission. However, he neglects to talk about the context around the proposed transmission line and the project in general.
The upper Pitt is an area that many in the environmental community and the province's avid sportfishing community consider to be a pristine wilderness and they want to see it stay that way. The transmission line just happened to be the first point of contact between the two camps, as I believe they say in German, the schwerpunkt. However, I would argue that the development of the projects in the upper Pitt was the real concern, the earlier consideration of the transmission line simply gave the opposition a forum to begin registering their concerns.
So is it still difficult to develop projects in B.C.? Absolutely!
Does Run-of-River's experience herald the end of green power development in the province? No, project developers just have to understand the full scope of what they are stepping into. As part of that, green power project developers probably need to better understand that they cannot reduce the environmental/social argument to "its carbon-free" or words to that effect. There are a basket of environmental and social concerns around any project and all have to be successfully navigated.
As for Run-of-River, how are they doing?
From a high of $0.66 a year ago, their stock has fallen to $0.23. However, they still have an operating project at Brandywine Creek, producing 40+GWHrs per year and a number of development projects that include potential run-of-river developments at Mamquam and Dewdney Creek, both in B.C. as well as plans to develop biomass power using Mountain Pine Beetle killed trees in the province's interior.