Renewable energy not all it appears

I have been watching Quebec-based Innergex’s Upper Lillooet Power Project and was shocked to see it is actually going ahead. I am a very “fiscally conservative environmentalist” and I hate these Independent Power Projects (IPPs). Hate. Both fiscally and environmentally.


There is an IPP on Downton Lake at James Creek (Gold Bridge Valley) and they have made a mess of the road and watershed. The contractors have just thrown logs around and there is a scar running through the forest for the power lines. I was told that they have an environmental officer on site, but you would never know it with the way that they have done nothing to protect the streams. Plus, I was told that I couldn’t drive on the Downton Lake Road because it was ‘private’. Having spent the past 25-plus years in the area fishing, camping and staying at my friend’s house, I called bullshit to the person telling me that and she backed down admitting it was a public road.

According to the provincial government, 72 per cent of IPPs are located in known or suspected fish-bearing waters. I was not shocked.

But then it was a like being hit by lightning when my fiscal conservative ears pricked up that BC Hydro is contracted to pay a premium to the IPPs that is way more than the market rates. According to a recent editorial in the Times Colonist, “It is sobering to recollect that in the last call for power, B.C. Hydro was required to issue contracts to IPPs for $125 per megawatt-hour — well over double market prices. In fact, B.C. Hydro can currently purchase surplus hydro power from south of the border for as low as $10 a megawatt-hour or less.”

Innergex  is already in our backyard.  They run the Fitzsimmons Creek, Rutherford Creek, Ashlu Creek and Miller Creek hydro projects.

We all are very happy to be able to say that our Fitzsimmons powers the mountains. But, the Fitzsimmons Creek Hydroelectric Project is not owned locally in Whistler. Did you know that it presently receives a $10 per megawatt hour (MWh) incentive from the Government of Canada?

There’s more.

BC Hydro MUST buy all of the power generated by the project until the year 2050. Interesting to note that the Mount Currie Band and the Squamish Band are entitled to royalties and are also entitled to an incremental share of gross revenues exceeding a yearly threshold of gross revenues. In English, taxpayers are also subsidizing the bands indirectly.

According to documents filed with the Toronto Stock Exchange, the average price per MWh paid by BC Hydro for power generated at Fitzsimmons in 2012 was $90.58. Using Ontario as a baseline, the 2012 average price for power according to the Canadian National Energy Board was $30 per MWh. Nice Profit. Don’t forget to tack on the extra $10 per MWh in federal subsidies.

Innergex had an EBITDA in 2012 of $108 million on revenues of $180 million all attributed to provincial crown corporations. Let me spell that out. Innergex’s only customer is the government and their profit margin is a whopping 60 per cent. Outstanding numbers on the back of subsidies being paid for by taxpayers!

Do we need this extra project? Do we need the extra power? B.C. Hydro is forecast to lose a billion dollars over the next four years because it has a surplus and is committed by contract to the tune of $54 billion in energy-purchase agreements to IPP’s.

Sea to Sky residents have two options. Voice their concerns immediately with politicians or buy stock in Innergex on the TSX where it is rated a “strong buy.”

Patrick Smyth



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