Nov 26,2013 Tri City News

 

Burrard Generating Station (BGS) located on Port Moody
Burrard Generating Station (BGS) located on Port Moody's north shore is a 900 megawatt conventional natural gas-fired generating station. Established in the 1960s, it has about 77 full time employees. The province plans to shut it down by 2016. It is located on 74 hectares plus 4 hectares leased from Port Metro Vancouver.
image credit: City of Port Moody

 

The shutdown of a 50-year-old power generating station on Port Moody's north shore will result in a $1.2-million hit to the city's coffers the equivalent of 4% of the city's total tax intake.

Mothballing of the natural gas-fired power plant that provides emergency back-up power in periods of peak demand was announced Tuesday by Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett as part of a 10-year-strategy to keep electricity rates low, and ensure the province has enough power to supply a growing population and resource sector.

(A ministry spokesperson said shutting Burrard Thermal will save $14 million per year.)

Burrard Thermal will be used to stabilize power for transmission purposes and continue to provide about $300,000 in grants in lieu of taxes to Port Moody, according to PoMo Mayor Mike Clay. But most of its functions will be shut down in 2016, raising concerns about tax implications to the city and about how the region would handle a blackout should a natural disaster take out power lines.

"It's one of those things that doesn't go in the press release and people don't know what the implications are," Clay said.

PROPERTY REASSESSED

The mayor said he received the news shortly before Bennett's press conference Tuesday morning and still needed more time to digest and analyze the impact on the city's tax situation. "Staff are still doing an analysis on the tax side and the property side," he said.

For example, the potential cut in grants in lieu of taxes could be affected by a change in land status for the property but Clay said it's too early to suggest what that might be.

"We need to reassess the property," he said. "I'm hoping [the tax burden] doesn't get heaped back on the taxpayers."

Also of concern is how the region would manage should a natural disaster take out interior power lines, the way an ice storm did in Quebec a few years ago. Clay said he wasn't reassured by the ministry on that score.

"They're saying that they have multiple lines coming down [from the Interior] but catastrophic events tend to happen at the same time."

Ministry spokesperson Matt Gordon said: "BC Hydro has a diverse mix of transmission and distribution infrastructure to draw on under emergency conditions. We can rely on our network of local generation and transmission resources for that redundancy." He also noted "the addition of two hydro-electric generating units at Mica, completion of the Interior to Lower Mainland (ILM) transmission line and a new transformer at Meridian substation."

STABILITY OF TRANSMISSION SYSTEM

Gordon also said, "Burrard will continue to operate after 2016 to maintain the stability of the transmission and distribution system, which does not require the burning of natural gas."

As for the plant's 80 employees, he said Hydro will work with the them and their union "to ensure a smooth transition for staff over the next 18 to 24 months."

Still, local environmentalist Elaine Golds agreed that the Burrard Thermal shutdown doesn't make sense given the relatively low carbon footprint of the plant and its ability to generate power in an emergency or in winter during periods of peak demand.

"Natural gas is so cheap right now, they could be using the plant now more than what they are doing and generating electricity for a fraction of what it costs. I don't think this is a sensible decision at all," said Golds, a director with the Burke Mountain Naturalists (and The Tri-City News' Green Scene columnist).

According to BC Hydro, Burrard Thermal contributes 7.5% to the province's power needs.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com