Utility plans green certificate pilot -- Seeking competitive proposals

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Canadian utility BC Hydro will begin offering green certificates to its commercial customers in September in a pilot project that could eventually be extended to residential and industrial buyers. The utility says a number of large business customers, like the University of British Columbia and the province's newest ski resort, have expressed an interest in supporting green project investment.

"They were the natural customers to go to first," says the utility's Joanne McKenna. "We are talking to our customers to get a sense of whether they'd be interested in buying green, what does green look like to them, and what value this translates to them in their operations. We're looking at this as a pilot where we can really learn a lot from our customers."

With no wind power expected to come on-line in British Columbia (BC) until 2003, the program will initially offer a blend of small hydro, landfill gas and biomass at a certificate price of C$15/MWh. BC Hydro recently signed power purchase contracts with 19 independent green power producers and offered deals to three others. If all are built, they could provide about 800 GWh of green power annually onto the grid.

Much of the power will be used to meet the utility's voluntary Renewables Portfolio Standard, in which it has committed to supplying 10% of new energy demand from green sources. The utility's trading arm, Powerex, also plans to use some of the power to tap into the growing green power market in the United States. Combined with a domestic green power program, says McKenna, "what this is hopefully going to do is stimulate the development and growth of a green energy sector in BC. If we can sell this, we can buy more."

In fact, the utility is already planning a second green power request for proposals (RFP), which it expects to release in October. The first RFP, which was released in early 2000 and led to the recent purchase agreements, attracted no wind proposals. BC Hydro's Alison Briggs says she thinks this may be due to the fact that knowledge of wind resource potential in BC is still evolving. The RFP also placed a 50 MW cap on the size of eligible projects. The details of the October RFP have not been worked out, says Briggs, but the structure may change to be more conducive to wind projects.

There is little doubt, adds McKenna, that wind will play a role in the province's energy future. "We're looking at incubating larger scale development of wind in BC. I don't want to say the second call will allow that, but we're open for business, so we're hoping to get some competitive proposals. If they're from wind that's great."

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