Burrard Thermal to only be used as backup power source, province says

The Burrard Thermal Generating Facility will no longer be relied on as a primary source of electricity, the B.C. government announced yesterday (October 28).

However, the natural-gas power plant near Port Moody will still be used for “up to 900 megawatts of emergency capacity” in the case of generation or transmission outages, according to a press release from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

“We’ve committed since 2001 to ending BC Hydro’s reliance on Burrard and to only using it for emergency back-up capacity,” Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Blair Lekstrom stated in the release, titled “Province Advances Commitment to Clean, Renewable Energy”.

The move means that B.C. Hydro can no longer take the aging, greenhouse-gas-producing power plant into account when planning its future energy needs, and will have to rely on other sources to satisfy new demand, such as private run-of-river power projects.

Burrard Thermal is already only used to generate 10 percent of the electricity it has the capacity to produce each year, according to the release.

The 950-megawatt plant is capable of generating 7,050 gigawatt hours per year, according to the B.C. Hydro Web site.




Oct 29, 2009 at 3:10pm

So I wonder who paid for this plant... Yes, of course: taxpayers dollars. The plant can provide electricity, with natural gas, what it was built for but now because of Mr Jaccard and Suzuki, unelected activists of the AGW theory, the taxpayers will be on the hook for some new investment... Indeed congratulations BC gov. for managing so poorly taxpayers' investments.

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Oct 29, 2009 at 3:24pm

Here we go again. Next is Lekstrom's promise "to give direction" to the BCUC to allow Hydro to buy another 3000 gigawatts of low value springtime river run from BCLiberal party insiders at Pirate Power.

Cost $15 billion to the taxpayer over forty years and a doubling of power rates.That same 3000 gigawatts generated in our competing neighbour's with current nuclear tech would cost $600 million up front and $300 million with mass produced nukes.

Because most of that 3000 gigawatts must we sold into the saturated springtime market, we are likely to get less than $3 billion for it over the next few years then nothing in the10 to 40 year time frame as extremely cheap fusion and Gen IV nuclear takes over the market.

If you nitwits that either voted for Gordo and his fascist team or just stayed home, think there was a lot of people moving to Alberta during the NDP years, just wait for the exodus of all BC Business's that use electricity to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington. Alaska and Montana. The only ones left will be Gordo and his group of BCLiberal party hacks with their Pirate Power fortunes and the remaining great unwashed as their servants. BCHydro and the province will be bankrupt.


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Oct 29, 2009 at 5:22pm

Yet another journalist using the well worn government phrase when describing the Burrard Thermal Plant. An "aging" plant. One wonders if the Private Power Industry in BC is behind this portrayal. I remember when environmentalists embraced natural gas to run the buses and fuel their own personal furnaces and fireplaces in their homes.

Here's a few facts about Burrard Thermal omitted by the author of this article...

A number of improvements in recent years such as the installation of Selective Catalytic Reduction Units have significantly reduced its emissions of smog producing pollutants by approximately 90% and that (e.g.) in 2006, the BTGP contributed approximately 0.05% of the NOx emissions in the lower Fraser Valley.

The largest source of GHG emissions in the Lower Mainland is vehicle emissions, not electricity generation.

In 2005, while BTGP (Burrard Thermal) was the 4 th largest single point producer of GHG (70,000 tonnes) in the Lower Mainland, but it produced only 6% of the highest producer (Lehigh’s Delta cement plant at 1.12 million tonnes of GHG), or 8% of the second highest producer (LaFarge’s Richmond cement plant at 863,000 tonnes) or 16% of the third highest (the Chevron Refinery in Burnaby at 430,000 tonnes) while producing 500 GWh of electricity. In other words, BTGP released less than 3% of the GHG produced from the top three single point sources in 2005.

The BTGP continues to play a key role in providing voltage regulation on transmission lines through use of its generators as synchronous condensers and it could cost up to $76 million to install new equipment to replace this function.

The electricity produced by BTGP is a firm source that can be delivered locally on demand unlike the intermittent and more distance sources of some private power producers.

The BTGP has rarely been used at full capacity, has been well maintained and thus continues to have a reasonable life span well beyond 2014.

Operating BTGP during the winter months to meet peak energy demand during cold periods with short daylight hours is the period of the year when the generation of smog-producing chemicals is of least concern.

Using Burrard Thermal rather than purchasing electricity from coal-fired sources outside the Province would be consistent with Provincial energy policies to promote self-sufficiency and minimize GHG production.

If one takes the time on a cold clear winter day to see where the 'haze' is being produced one only needs to look south to the two cement plants which continue to be the highest single point sources of GHG in the metro area.

With more and more greenhouses being constructed, the GHG emissions from these sources during the heating season may even equal that of Burrard Thermal

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Oct 30, 2009 at 8:55am

Great information pwlg, thanks for balancing the story more.

Is it really necessary for a us to tear up the rivers (500 at last count), some ridiculously beautiful, and strangle the wilds of BC in a spidersweb of (expensive) power lines for a small amount of part-time power that's not required if we push conservation and really focus on optimizing demand. Its cheaper and cleaner to get full-time Solar from sunny California.

A quick peek at the Hydro 2009 annual report reveals that Hydro's own generation costs $7 per MWh and fees paid to new clean energy projects cost $68 per MWh, thats 10 times more and rising yearly.

Conserving electricity costs $41/MWh while new IPPs will charge more to Hydro: which will cost you as a user and tax incentives to these small power companies will cost you as a taxpayer. Basically we will all lose, *and* we'll lose fantastic wilderness all for little gain.

Efficiency is the best answer, its where we should start first.

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Ivan Doumenc

Oct 30, 2009 at 9:14am

People of BC beware! You are being grossly manipulated by the Campbell government.

The "decommissioning" of Burrard Thermal is a politician's smoke screen to justify the awarding of thousands of unneeded megawatts to private power corporations.

Here is why. Burrard Thermal is a backup plant. Always has. Always will be. And so Campbell's announcement that this plant will used as a backup plant *changes nothing*, except on BC Hydro's books. On paper, BC Hydro has just "lost" 6000 GwH which need to be "replaced". How? Well, through private power of course!

This summer, the BC Utilities Commission dissented with Campbell's plan to sell out our rivers. The independent commission ruled that BC Hydro's request for new energy was grossly inflated because energy conservation has not yet been properly tapped into. To justify the "need" for private power in spite of this ruling, the Campbell government needed to come up with a magic trick. Burrard Thermal provided just that.

The problem of course - are you ready for this? - is that run-of-river energy plants are structurally *incapable* of providing the energy needed by British Columbians. Indeed, those private power plants produce their peak energy in the spring and summer, whereas we need most of our energy in the winter. It's a hard fact dictated by the laws of hydrology.

Consequently, the majority of electrons produced by private run-of-river plants are destined to California, profiting the bottom lines of General Electric, Plutonic Power, and other transnational corporations, but not British Columbians.

This private power business is the scam of the century.

Ivan Doumenc
Vancouver, BC

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Oct 30, 2009 at 9:34am


You state that in "2005, while BTGP (Burrard Thermal) was the 4 th largest single point producer of GHG (70,000 tonnes) ..."

70,000 tonnes doesn't look like the figure that other experts in this field are using. Here is a passage from a letter by the Pembina Inst and the David Suzuki Foundation, signed by Matt Horne and Nicholas Heap, and addressed to BC Energy Min Lekstrom on Aug 19, 2009:

"If followed, the Commission’s direction to increase generation at Burrard Thermal from 3,000 to 5,000 GWh annually would amount to an increase of 1.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. [reference to footnote 1, which reads - Pembina Institute calculation based on 2,000 GWh of generation from Burrard Thermal gas plant at an average emissions intensity of 570 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per GWh of generation. This emissions intensity is equivalent to the Burrard Thermal gas plant’s average emissions intensity between
1997 and 2005 as reported on BC Hydro’s website.]"


As between 70,000 tonnes for a year's total operation and over a million tonnes for an additional 2000 GWh there would seem to be some disconnect.

Rod Smelser

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Oct 30, 2009 at 12:23pm

Pembina and the David Suzuki Foundation made a surprising error in their normally solid calculations. They assumed that the BC Utilities Commission was directing BC Hydro to allow Burrard Thermal to ramp up to 3,000 - 5,000 GWh annually. That was a completely incorrect assumption.

What they failed to realize that the BCUC decision was to keep Burrard running business as usual - at approximately 5 per cent of capacity - and that the 5,000 GWh of electricity attributed to Burrard was for "planning purposes" only - in other words the energy would never be used because it was in excess to BC's needs.

This get complicated - but under the 2002 Energy Plan the BC Government mandated that BC Hydro provide for insurance energy (3,000 Gwh) plus operate under the assumption that every year is a critical low water year for BC Hydro. The end result is it creates the appearance of the need for more energy in BC. This is a perfect scenario for the IPP industry which is very chummy with the BC Government.

The BC Utility Commission threw the government for a loop this summer when they rejected the last clean energy call - ruling that the purchase of very expensive IPP energy was "not in the public interest".

This latest announcement by the BC Government is simply over-ruling their own arms-length energy watchdog to continue to subsidize the IPP industry in BC.

Because of this bizarre decision the public and ratepayers are now on the hook for additional billions of dollars to the likes of General Electric and Plutonic Power. Purchasing 5,000 GWh of soft intermittent and very expensive electricity from IPPs will cost ratepayers over $20 billion, yes billion, in energy purchase agreements.

There is something very very wrong with this scenario.

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Oct 30, 2009 at 12:35pm

From Bchydro.com 2009 Annual report:

BC Scope 1 Direct Emissions - Stationary combustion (electricity generation) in thousand tonnes of CO2e
2004 - 454
2005 - 284
2006 - 581
2007 - 293
2008 - 382

“In the first three months of calendar year 2008, a build up of ice on the Peace River resulted in the inability of running our Peace River facilities. This caused us to rely on Burrard Thermal Generating Station to meet winter load. As a result, direct GHG emissions from electricity generation were higher in 2008 than in 2007. Indirect GHG emissions in 2008 were comparable to 2007.

So its neither 70,000 tonnes for BTGP (Burrard Thermal) nor 1,100,000 tonnes. Annual BTGP (Burrard Thermal) cant be 70,000 tonnes nor 700,000 tonnes. From the above figures assume Peace couldn’t operate for 1.5 months – therefore BTGP running at 70,000t/month = 100,000t – that’s approx the increase from 2007-2008. Therefore when required BTGP (Burrard Thermal) emits est 70,000t/month.

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Oct 30, 2009 at 3:02pm

ohyeah and solareyes:

I take your posts to amount to saying that the figure provided by Pembina and DSF of 1.1 million tonnes of GHGs is completely without foundation, that no reasonable and informed person could honestly believe that. Is that right?

Rod Smelser

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