Green power guide raises concerns -- Not tough enough

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The Canadian wind industry is warning that Environment Canada's new guideline for certification of "green power" is so lax that it will permit the sale of "green" electricity stripped of any environmental benefit. The guideline was released for a public assessment period, ending in early March, after a lengthy process of internal review.

Once approved by the environment minister, the document will be used to apply the Ecologo brand to generation facilities and power marketers through the federal government's Environmental Choice Program (ECP). Andrew Pape-Salmon of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) says the wind industry wants criteria added that would define the ownership of environmental benefits such as atmospheric emissions reductions.

"Basically the concern is around double counting," says Pape-Salmon. "A firm that produces and markets green power could sell it at a premium to consumers, then strip the emission reduction credits off for themselves or to sell to somebody else. If revenue is derived twice for one green power product the end result is less wind power will be built, and we have a strong concern about that."

If a company wants to "strip off" wind's environmental attributes to sell into emerging markets for SO2, NOx or carbon, argues Pape-Salmon, it can still be done through contract on a case-by-case basis. The resulting electricity would simply not be marketed as green.

The draft, developed in 1999 with the help of a stakeholder review committee, originally included a clause stipulating ownership of "any and all environmental benefits (including emission reductions) will be assigned and transferred to marketers and/or users" of the power. But after Terrachoice Environmental Services, which manages the Ecologo program, submitted it to Environment Canada, it was removed.

"It happened because Environment Canada determined it wanted to study the implications of these environmental benefits before incorporating them into the guideline," says Les Welsh, Environment Canada's director of sustainable energy. Welsh is aware stakeholders are concerned about the removal of the clause but emphasises a final decision has yet to be made.

Pape-Salmon believes that overall the direction of the guideline, which will replace outdated green power criteria developed in 1996, is positive. It has steadfastly excluded large-scale hydro against the wishes of the Canadian Electricity Association -- and it limits the amount of older generation green power marketers can sell. Fifty per cent of their capacity must originate from plants installed after January 1, 1991. Welsh is reluctant to predict when the guideline will be finally approved. "I'm planning that it will be finalised by the fall," he says, "but this depends on the reaction of stakeholders."

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