Monday, April 26, 2010

Alaska Congressman Don Young in favour of a connection to the grid

This is a story from the Wrangell Sentinel and came over my desktop via A. John Robertson of the 54-40 Discourse.

I am very happy to see interest from parts of Alaska in the idea of connecting the the Western Interconnect via BC.   The larger an area connected to the grid, the more consistent the whole grid is.   Alaska also offers some interesting opportunities for green power production.  Short term there is more benefit for Alaska as they will be able to import much cheaper power from BC and be able to switch off the existing diesel generators.

All in all, the interest from Alaska says to me that the Highway #37 line that is proposed is too small and is not going far enough.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Northwest Transmission Line Review

The review of the powerline is underway.  This is from the Terrace Standard

THE PROVINCIAL government's environmental assessment office has officially started to review the long-planned Northwest Transmission Line.
All of the required documentation needed to begin the scheduled 180-day review has been received and checked, says Kathy Eichenberger, the environmental assessment official who will be overseeing the review.
“The public comment period begins April 26 and lasts until June 10,” said Eichenberger in outlining some of the key elements of the review.
Public meetings are planned April 27 in Dease Lake, April 28 in Smithers and April 29 in Terrace.
The planned finishing date to have the assessment completed and handed to the environment and energy, mines and petroleum resources ministers for a decision is Oct. 12.
Those ministers have 45 days to decided to approve or not approve the project.
The transmission line, which would start at the Skeena Substation near Terrace, would run up Hwy37 North, ending at a place called Bob Quinn.
Its construction will lead to the ability of mining companies with promising properties to develop those properties because they will have access to reliable and cost-effective power.
Those companies will, however, have to build connecting lines to connect to the larger line.
Construction of the line will also open up the possibility of companies to produce power via run of river generators or other means and feed that power into the provincial grid.
If approved, the line will be built by the B.C. Transmission Corporation, a provincial crown corporation responsible for the province's electrical distribution network.
The anticipated cost is $404 million and the province is counting on a federal commitment to provide up to $130 million of that cost.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time to Treat the Electrical Grid like the Highways

We operate our highways as a public good for everyone, general public and business, as an engine of the economy. Our grid meanwhile is not operated in the same manner.

The division of BC Hydro into the BC Transmission Corporation and a new BC Hydro that deals with power generation and distribution to customers is an important move forward, but the mandate of the BCTC is not open enough to allow them to be the economic engine it could be for the province.

Businesses are not allowed to develop power in BC and use the grid to sell it to customers. If you develop power you have to either sell it to BC Hydro or you have to build your own separate transmission line. Businesses are not allowed to access the BCTC transmission network to move their power to an end user.

There is a division between BC Hydro and BCTC but the relationship between the two is very, very close. BC Hydro still looks after the transmission lines for BCTC. The roles of the two companies are very much intertwined.

What we need to see in BC is a BCTC that treats all producers of power the same and does not work hand in glove with one large entity. Ideally we also need to allow people to buy their power from whom they like, if I want to buy power from a private company, why should I not be allowed to do that?

If we were to make the separation between BCTC and BCHydro much bigger and allowed access to the grid for the supply of power to whomever, there would be a lot more interest in small scale green power production in rural BC. The scale of the small green power plants will lead to regular and ongoing construction, operation and maintenance work in small rural communities across the province.

The Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams Settlement

This week the process started to transfer 4166 hectares of lands to the two first nations as part of their settlement of their Cut Off Specific Claim. Most of the land will be a new jointly managed reserve between the two communities, but there will be several small parcels in much more useful locations close to Port Edward.

I highlight this settlement because it includes a large transfer of lands to First Nations, but it is not the only one. The fact that is different about these settlements is that it allows for land to be transfered to Indian Reserve status.

For decades the policy of the BC government was not to generally allow any provincial lands to be transfered to Indian Reserve status. In general under the NDP and Social Credit the only transfers were of lands related to moving a road or highway when it crossed a reserve.

Since the Liberals were elected in 2001 the province has changed their position and has allowed lands to be made into new Indian Reserves. I worked on specific claims in the past and was normally instructed to negotiate for more reserves lands. This was simply not an option in the 1990s, in fact in one settlement the band had to sign agreement that they would never ask for a piece of land to transfered to reserve status.

Allowing more lands to come under Indian Act administration allows for lands that bands govern and can use for development and housing. Many bands have small patchworks of reserves that are effectively ungovernable or undeveloped. Allowing bands to govern more will allow them to develop more capacity to manage their own affairs.

In the case of settlement with the two Tsimshian communities near Prince Rupert, the large new reserve lands make a consistent block of aboriginal jurisdiction between Metlakatla and Port Simpson. The bands also have lands near Port Edward along the railway and road, a 35 acre lot. There is another one further up the highway towards Terrace.

The land at Port Edward is well suited for commercial development by the band and to offer on reserve housing closer to Prince Rupert.

Ultimately in rural BC it is the First Nations that are going to some of the most important partners in economic development. If they have more and better lands, they will be able do more development.