Following a stakeholder consultation this summer, the BC
Ministry of Energy and Mines is planning to exercise its authority
under the Utilities Commission Act (British Columbia) (the
"UCA") to exempt two transmission projects, the North
Montney Power Supply ("NMPS") project (proposed by
Alberta-based ATCO) and the Peace Region Electricity Supply
("PRES") project (proposed by BC Hydro), from review by
the BC Utilities Commission (the "BCUC") under Part 3 of
the UCA. Among other things, this exemption would relieve BC Hydro
and ATCO from the requirement under section 45 of the UCA to obtain
a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the BCUC for
each of the projects.
In a report issued on April 27, 2015 (available here), BC Hydro describes the PRES project as
intended to resolve the "upstream" constraints in the
transmission system supplying the Peace Region in Northeast BC. In
the same report, BC Hydro describes its need to "serve some of
the most dramatic, single industry load (demand for electricity)
growth in a discrete area that it has experienced over the past 50
years". Plans are underway in the Peace Region for natural gas
producers to power their compression facilities using electricity
drawn from BC Hydro's grid, rather than their own gas, to
generate the requisite power. The NMPS project, which would be
built and serviced by ATCO, is intended to deliver power from BC
Hydro's grid to Progress Energy Canada Ltd.'s upstream
facilities. Progress is a subsidiary of Petronas, which is the
proponent behind the Pacific NorthWest LNG facility in the District
of Port Edward on BC's North Coast.
The BC Government's decision to exempt the PRES and NMPS
projects from Part 3 of the UCA is not without controversy. The
move has been opposed by both the BC Public Interest Advocacy
Centre, an organization which represents low and fixed-income
ratepayers, and the Peace River Regional District.
As discussed in an
earlier blog post, an independent task force appointed by the
BC government released a report in February 2015 that provided
various recommendations for restoring the BCUC as a strong and
independent regulator of public utilities, including a
recommendation that the BC Government make use of section 5 of the
UCA to obtain advice from the BCUC on projects which it may
otherwise wish to exempt from BCUC review under Part 3 of the UCA.
This procedure would allow the BC Government to obtain advice and
recommendations from the BCUC while still retaining the ability to
make the final decision regarding the project.
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The Government of Alberta recently announced a number of policy changes that will impact the Alberta Electricity Market, composed of its generators, transmitters, distributors, retailers, electricity consumers and wholesale electricity market.
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