One of the thorniest issues raised in the joint review panel’s report on BC Hydro’s Site C dam proposal is that of the B.C. government’s hypocritical policy on the burning of natural gas for electricity.
“The LNG developers have been promised a free hand to burn their gas here for their own purposes, but BC Hydro has been denied the same privilege,” the panel wrote in its report on the $7.9 proposed dam.
The controversy revolves around the 2010 Clean Energy Act — and who it applies to and, perhaps more importantly, who it does not.
The act limits BC Hydro’s options for generating electricity by demanding that 93 per cent of the province’s energy needs be met by “clean or renewable resources” — eliminating the use of gas turbines and sending the gas-fired Burrard Thermal generating station into early retirement.
It’s a reasonable policy from a climate change perspective — but there’s a catch.
In June 2012, the province exempted the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry from the Clean Energy Act, enabling plants to burn as much natural gas as they’d like to power their giant compressors — despite originally promising they'd be powered by clean electricity — and, as of now, that’s exactly what they intend to do.
“If it is acceptable to burn natural gas to provide power to compress, cool, and transport B.C. natural gas for Asian markets, where its fate is combustion anyway, why not save transport and environmental costs and take care of domestic needs?” the Site C panel wrote.