Metro Vancouver's Waste-To-Energy Facility has operated in south Burnaby for more than 25 years. A new incinerator for the region could burn an additional 370

Incinerator power deal gets green light

Regulators dash hopes of Metro Vancouver's waste-to-energy critics

Opponents of Metro Vancouver’s waste-to-energy strategy have been dealt a blow by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

Regulators there have approved an electricity purchase agreement that will see BC Hydro pay $43 per megawatt-hour for power from Metro’s existing garbage incinerator in Burnaby.

Critics had argued Metro’s garbage-fueled electricity can’t count as clean and renewable under provincial law and therefore should be worth much less – closer to the $24 spot price for power exported to the U.S.

The aim of incineration opponents was to blow a hole not just in the revenue from the existing plant but also in the business case for a future new waste-to-energy plant, which Metro Vancouver has assumed will earn around $100 per megawatt-hour.

But the utilities commission decided air pollution concerns raised by the Fraser Valley Regional District were “not relevant” in okaying the contract renewal and made no finding on whether the incinerator counts as clean, green power.

It concluded the negotiated price between BC Hydro and incinerator operator Covanta Energy appropriately reflects the cost of power generation plus a reasonable return.

The $24 spot market price wasn’t an appropriate comparison, the commission said, because it doesn’t apply to electricity that is firm (incinerator power is always on, unlike wind farms) or guaranteed in large volumes for many years.

BC Hydro said the $43 contract price is well below its long-term cost of building new generating capacity of $85 to $100 per megawatt-hour and still attractive compared to the $51 it would pay for non-clean natural gas-fired power.

Metro’s existing incinerator burns 280,000 tonnes of garbage per year, while a new one at a yet-to-be-determined location would take an additional 370,000 tonnes.

Critics of Metro’s strategy had argued BC Hydro will be blocked from paying a premium price for the new incinerator’s electricity, making the project a financial flop, or at least uncompetitive compared to continued landfilling.

Estimates of the capital cost of a new incinerator run as high as $517 million.

Metro Vancouver senior engineer Chris Allan said the BCUC decision wasn’t surprising because it was a renewal of a contract to buy power from an existing source, not for a new one.

Russ Black, vice-president of Cache Creek landfill operator Belkorp Environmental, still predicts Metro won’t get a premium price based on green power for the new incinerator because the regional district admitted during the proceedings that 40 per cent of the energy from garbage comes from non-renewable sources like plastics, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’ve laid the foundation for the fight in the future,” he said.

But even an unfavourable power price from Hydro may still not be the silver bullet critics hope would unravel Metro’s plans.

“Not every technology is reliant on selling electricity,” said Metro board chair Greg Moore, noting the new plant might sell little to no power into the grid and instead pipe steam to a district heating system or an industrial user.

He noted one of the waste-to-energy project bidders is a Delta cement plant that has no plans to sell to Hydro at all.

“You’ve got Lehigh Cement that makes cement and they want to replace coal and rubber tires with municipal solid waste as fuel.”

Just Posted

VIDEO: Grand opening of the Vedder Rotary Loop Trail

It took 24 years to complete the 20.8-kilometre trail which runs along the north and south sides of the Vedder River

Chilliwack’s David Lee Roth impersonator applies for a mistrial in underage sex case

David Kuntz-Angel convicted in August but now questions BC Supreme Court Justice’s ‘mental faculties’

B.C. petition calls for seat belts in new school buses

Agassiz bus driver collects 124,000 signatures in support

Hamper registration by Salvation Army is underway now in downtown Chilliwack

Christmas Central is in old Progress building on Spadina Avenue; applications accepted until Dec. 14

Best filmmakers of B.C. and world featured at Chilliwack Independent Film Festival

This marks the third year for CIFF which will be showing 39 different films at Cottonwood 4 Cinemas

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

Duncan man gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty trial

Joe also gets lifetime ban on owning animals

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

B.C. woman ordered to return dog to ex-boyfriend for $2,000

After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen

Most Read