Photo Credit: Capital Power

Big Power Producing Polluter Might Be on the Chopping Block

BC Hydro wants to move on, but the Edmonton-based owner of the plant says closing it would leave a gap in the VanIsle grid

The natural gas-fired power plant in Campbell River is one of the biggest single sources of heat-trapping pollution in BC

One of the biggest carbon polluters of the entire provincial electrical grid sits on Campbell River’s industrial waterfront, and BC Hydro wants out.

Island Generation burns natural gas to produce up to 275 MW of electricity. It’s the single largest power producer on VanIsle, but also generates 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. That’s equivalent to the C02 pollution produced by roughly 22,000 cars annually.

Edmonton-based Capital Power owns island Generation. The company has an electricity purchase agreement with BC Hydro that expires in April 2022.

In June, BC Hydro released its draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The IRP states there is ‘no basis to assume’ this agreement will be renewed. BC Hydro says the high cost and large amounts of greenhouse gas pollution are the reason it might send the power producer packing.

Originally, the gas-fired plant was built to power the energy-hungry Elk Falls pulp and paper mill. But the mill closed permanently in 2010.

In a recent Campbell River Mirror story, Brian Vaasjo, Capital Power’s president and CEO, said shutting the plant would be a loss for Campbell River and Islanders in general. Island Generation employs 15 people and pays $1.5 million per year to the city in taxes. It is also used as a backup power source in outages and high-load periods, such as winter cold snaps and increasingly summertime when people crank the AC to get through heat waves.

In a July 23 presentation to Campbell River city council, Capital Power representatives argued for keeping the plant open. However, should the facility close, generation capacity on Vancouver Island would decrease by 34 percent and increase dependence on subsea connections from the mainland, Vaasjo said.

But closing this CO2 polluter could be a win for the planet. BC Hydro says that the plant is used infrequently for another reason – it’s too expensive.

BC Hydro has indicated it will provide its final resource plan to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) by the end of 2021. The BCUC is responsible for regulating the energy grid.  It could take more than a year for BCUC to review and approve BC Hydro’s resource plan. By then, Island Generation’s contract will have expired.

“…the island facility would likely be decommissioned, with demolition underway,” said Vaasjo.

Campbell River city council passed a motion for the city to request BC Hydro renew the electrical power generation contract.