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Green Party promises local renewable energy

The B.C. Green Party wants British Columbia to follow Ontario's lead on renewable energy development by legislating feed-in tariffs.

The party's energy critic, Philip Stone, told The Hook that the Green Party is advocating for a feed-in tariff scheme to support more diversified and small-scale power generation.

Last month, Ontario proposed legislation for new feed-in tariff policies. Feed-in tariffs guarantee electricity purchase prices that vary with the type of technology, depending on its capital, operating and maintenance costs.

Stone said the party hadn't developed specific price points for this policy, but said "we could certainly look to the Ontario example."

He said the potential backlash to raising electricity prices was a concern, but added, "the truth is that rising energy costs are going to happen...the question is whether we're going to use the money to subsidize large mega-projects or put the money in to a public-owned utility."

BC Hydro currently has a type of feed-in tariff, the standing offer program, for projects under 10 MW, but the purchase price does not differentiate between technologies.

Steve Davis, president of the Independent Power Producers of B.C. (IPPBC) said that feed-in tariffs are one tool for renewable development, but BC Hydro's existing competitive bid process works fine.

"We're OK with the existing methods, we're OK with feed-in tariffs," he said.

The Green Party is also advocating for elected regional resource management boards that would manage a portfolio of projects based on regional resources.

Stone said that the private industry "certainly has a role to play...having a local say in how development happens is pretty key to building self-reliant energy sources."

When asked if such regional energy boards could alleviate some of the public push-back to renewable development in the province, Davis said "Adding another layer, I don't think would add any value. There is already ample opportunity for local government and the public to participate in processes."

However, recent campaigns against IPPs, and particularly run-of-river projects, suggest there is a segment of the population concerned about the public's role (or lack thereof) in renewable development.

Jamie Lawson, a political science professor at the University of Victoria said the issue could be a significant one for the election, "if it gets presented in terms of the degree to which local communities are consulted with what goes on in their backyards. That would appeal to people who might not identify as environmentalists."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Hook.

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