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How much clean power? Decision looms for BC's renewable sector

VANCOUVER - The BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) will wrap up a hotly-contested hearing this week that will set the course of future energy development in the province.

A BCUC spokesperson told The Tyee that the panel responsible for reviewing BC Hydro's Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP) is expected to make a decision by July 20.

The LTAP is BC Hydro's action plan to "cost-effectively meet growing customer demands," with new electricity generation as well as conservation and demand-side management, and will shape the electricity generation market for the next decade and beyond.

A key aspect of that decision is whether or not the review panel will accept BC Hydro's clean energy target. Last year, BC Hydro incited controversy when it lowered its Clean Power Call from 5,000 to 3,000 gigawatt hours per year.

In April, the BCUC panel heard final arguments and comments from intervenors and interested parties, all of which are available here.

Some want more electricity generation, some want less. Naikun Wind Energy Group submits that "there is substantial risk that the BC Hydro DSM [demand-side management] plan may well fall short of its targets and jeopardize BC Hydro's ability to attain electricity self-sufficiency." The Canadian Office and Professional Employees (COPE) Union Local 378 argues that "the proposed call volumes for which BC Hydro seeks the endorsement of the Commission are unnecessary at this time."

Warren Brazier, a Vancouver lawyer, has been covering the hearing on his firm's renewable energy blog, Megawatt. He said it's anybody's guess whether the BCUC will reject, accept or modify BC Hydro's clean call for power.

"Nobody knows," he told The Tyee. "It could go many ways...the BCUC is not a rubber stamp for BC Hydro."

One thing is for sure: a lot of money is riding on the decision. BC Hydro's call for clean power received an overwhelming response from the renewable energy sector, with 68 proponents submitting bids that totaled 17,000 gigawatt hours per year.

BC Hydro will release the results of its Clean Power Call after the BCUC releases its decision.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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