Ecologo power defined

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Wind power producers are pleased with the final draft of Canada's green power certification guidelines, which, after lengthy debate, exclude large hydro projects from their definition of renewable energy. "There's no question there has been contention in developing this guideline," says Kevin Gallagher, vice-president of TerraChoice Environmental Services, the company given the task of creating and applying criteria for Ecologo certification under the federal government's Environmental Choice Program. "It's one of the harder guidelines that we've worked on."

Canadian power producers have not readily agreed on what should qualify as renewable, particularly "around the whole area of hydro," says Gallagher. The Canadian Electrical Association (CEA), which represents major utilities and hydro producers, led a fight to have large-scale hydro, which accounts for 60% of Canada's electricity, included.

Ken Adams, who heads the CEA's task group on renewables and green power, believes the guidelines set unrealistic standards for eligibility, qualifying a volume of electricity so small as to undermine the the initiative. He has asked TerraChoice to redress "the somewhat bizarre situation of a guideline on renewable electricity that effectively precludes from certification the one renewable in significant quantity in Canada, hydro electricity."

TerraChoice steadfastly maintains that small run-of-river hydro plants fit within Ecologo guidelines, but that large projects, which alter the flow of a river, create reservoirs and impact aquatic and riparian habitat, do not. "I think the research bears out that the larger the hydro facility, the larger the impact, and some producers obviously disagree with that," says Gallagher. "It's just that we, by the nature of our program, have to set up criteria that are both relevant and achievable for the day, and will point out the leaders."

Wind producers happy

The new guidelines will eliminate 80-90% of generators in Canada, but TerraChoice believes enough can be Ecologo branded to maintain high environmental standards and successfully lever a wider market for green power. Then, as that market grows, and technology changes, the standards can be raised.

Wind power producers are relatively happy with the latest version of TerraChoice's draft guidelines. In addition to the exclusion of large scale hydro, there's a limit on the amount that older generation green power marketers, who want to promote Ecologo certified electricity, can sell. At least 50% of their capacity must originate from plants installed after January 1, 1991. This is important, says Jason Edworthy of Alberta-based Vision Quest Windelectric, because it will "open up additional market opportunities for wind that can be brought on quickly."

Vision Quest, with four 600 kW turbines, was the first wind producer to be certified with the Ecologo. The Environmental Choice Program established interim guidelines for renewable power in 1996, and has since endorsed wood-waste biomass, landfill gas, small hydro and wind power plants, in addition to three green power marketing programs. The new guidelines were developed over the course of 1999, during which time a second wind producer, the 100 MW Le Nordais wind farm in Quebec, attained certification.

Gallagher says final approval of the draft is expected from the federal government by March, when a whole new debate over Ecologo certification will likely begin. Environmental Choice is now considering branding non-renewable, low-impact electricity, which could include technologies like high-efficiency natural gas co-generation.

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