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British Columbia Still Committed To Green Power

Date: 30-Jul-09
Country: BRITISH COLUMBIA
Author: Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER - British Columbia is still committed to promoting clean energy projects despite taking a blow on Tuesday from its own power utility regulator, the Canadian province's energy minister said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.

Blair Lekstrom, British Columbia's minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, said his government has not decided yet how it will respond to the regulator's rejection of parts of a business plan presented by government-owned power generator B.C. Hydro, including proposals to buy clean electricity from small, independent producers.

"We are not wavering from our commitment to clean, renewable energy," Lekstrom said, acknowledging he was surprised by the ruling by the regulator, the British Columbia Utilities Commission.

The commission said parts of BC Hydro's plan to promote green energy production were "not in the public interest".

Lekstrom complained that the commission's refusal to let BC Hydro downgrade the operations of the natural-gas fired Burrard power plant near Vancouver will hurt efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"That's just not going to happen," he said.

Higher use of the Burrard facility could decrease the need to purchase power from other sources, including the small, independent green energy producers that the BC Hydro plan was trying to promote.

BC Hydro, Canada's third-largest electric utility, has been given a mandate by the government to make British Columbia self-sufficient in electricity by 2016.

The West Coast province has also pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change by 33 percent by 2020, having enacted a carbon tax and agreed to be part of regional emissions cap and trade system that is spearheaded by the state of California.

Some critics of British Columbia's energy plans have accused it of overstating future power demand, and of allowing private firms to take control of public rivers to build small hydro facilities.

BC Hydro has not decided yet how it will respond to the commission's ruling.

The regulator did approve part some of the utility's spending plans, including continued consultation work on the proposed Site C dam, a massive hydro-electric project being considered for northeast British Columbia.

(Editing by Peter Galloway)

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