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BC energy minister says green energy plans include more exports

British Columbia's Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Blair Lekstrom confirmed following yesterday's throne speech that the province is looking to increase electricity exports.

“We're committed to a renewable energy industry,” said Lekstrom. “British Columbia has exported power for over 30 years, whether peak and non-peak loads. We're going to look at that. We think we have a bright future with electricity development in British Columbia.”

He stressed, however, that providing power for export is secondary to making B.C. electricity self-sufficient by 2016. “Our first priority, and I want to be very clear, is to meet our own electricity needs and then look beyond that to help others.”

Asked to what extent the province will be promoting an export-based renewable energy industry, Lekstrom said, “Working towards having it work for British Columbia, most definitely.”

Lekstrom's comments echoed the throne speech Lieutenant Governor Steven Point delivered on behalf of the government. “This government will capitalize on the world's desire and need for clean energy, for the benefit of all British Columbians,” the speech said.

The government will give “specific direction” to the B.C. Utilities Commission regarding the phasing out of the Burrard Thermal plant and a new task force will be appointed to “recommend a blueprint for maximizing British Columbia's clean power potential, including a principled, economically-viable and environmentally-sustainable export development policy.”

The BCUC cited the unused capacity of the Burrard Thermal plant in a July ruling that blocked BC Hydro from buying green energy from independent producers since it was unnecesary to meet B.C.'s needs.

The Liberal government and Lekstrom are finally admitting what's been obvious to critics since the introduction of the provincial energy plan in 2002, said Gwen Barlee, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee's policy director.

“It's been really obvious from 2002 to 2009 that it was going in that direction,” she said. “Now the truth's coming out. Of course all along it's been about export.”

WCWC is supportive of green energy, she said, but it makes no sense to export power without conditions on its end use. “We're doing it the wrong way in B.C.,” she said. “We can do green energy right in B.C.. I can't for the life of me understand why the government is screwing it up so badly.”

“It's appalling,” said John Horgan, the New Democratic Party's energy critic. B.C.'s creeks and rivers shouldn't be damaged to keep air conditioners running in California, he said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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