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More cold water on BC’s bid to sell IPP ‘renewable’ energy to California

A former California assemblyman who spearheaded an effort to increase the use of green power has said he doesn’t think it’s likely his state will count the electricity generated by British Columbia’s run-of-the-river projects as renewable energy.

The provincial government has been lobbying California politicians to do just that so it can be sold at a premium to the state's electric utilities -- which are required to use renewable sources for 20 percent of their retail sales by 2020. But, in an interview published last week, the executive director of the industry association representing independent power producers Paul Kariya acknowledged the chances of such a change happening that in the "short-term" are "pretty slim."

Under the state's so-called renewable portfolio standards, hydro projects that produce more than 30 megawatts of electricity or, in certain cases, have an adverse impact on a river aren't considered renewable.

Kariya suggested a change in California's political leadership may improve those chances. But Paul Krekorian, a Democrat who represented the state's 43rd assembly district from 2006 to 2010, questioned that analysis.

Speaking with Public Eye, Krekorian explained, "The existing eligibility definition was hammered out with exceptional difficulty" eight years ago.

And that's why, when California looked at amending its renewable portfolio standards in 2008, "there wasn't a lot of will to really dive into changing (that definition) because just by opening it up - whether you're a large hydro producer or an environmentalist or someone in labour or otherwise - the concern is you'll end up with something you like even less."

Moreover, by doing so, "it creates dramatic divisions and people who might otherwise find areas of agreement then become divided - particular on hydro." As an example, Krekorian - who is now a Los Angeles city councillor - pointed to the environmental community.

"If your focus is on greenhouse gas reduction, then you probably want to have more hydro. If your focus is on protecting wild rivers, then you encourage policy makers to find other ways to reduce carbon emissions. That's why it gets a little tricky."

That being said, though, Krekorian added the need to hit emissions targets could accomplish want a change in political leadership won't.

"With each passing year, our ability to reach our imperative greenhouse gas reduction goals becomes more and more difficult to do unless we do more and more dramatic things to change it," he explained.

"So whether that means changing eligibility definitions or fundamentally changing the way we do transmission, how we develop a grid that meets those exceptions - dramatic changes are going to become more and more imperative with each passing year that we fail to significantly advance toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Sean Holman is editor and publisher of Public Eye where this first appeared.