Common Sense Canadian

California rejects green label for BC’s private “run of river”

PostedFebruary 11, 2014 by in International
California rejects green label for BCs private river power projects

Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)

Read this January 21st story by Megan Hooker on the California Energy Commission’s rejection of BC’s green label of its private river diversion projects has profound ramifications for the province’s power export industry.

On January 15th, 2014, the California Energy Commission adopted a final report that reaffirms the integrity of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) regarding imported hydropower. After 5 years of hard work, American Whitewater and our partners in the California Hydropower Reform Coalition (CHRC) and river advocates in British Columbia are celebrating this important victory, which will have a reaching impact on rivers across the border.

What do rivers in B.C. have to do with California’s RPS? In 2011, the state legislature passed the California Renewable Energy Resources Act (Senate Bill X1 2), increasing the state’s RPS goal from 20% to 33% by 2020. In a rush to capitalize on this new standard in the years leading up to the bill’s passage, hydropower developers in B.C. and utilities in California pushed the idea of allowing new hydropower development in B.C. to be considered as renewable.

The types of hydro projects under consideration were labeled as “run-of-river,” a misleading term that hydropower developers use to make their projects sound environmentally friendly. “Run of river” simply means that a hydropower project does not store water. These projects still involve dams and diversions, dewater river reaches, and impact the amount and timing of flows…

B.C.’s environmental laws around hydropower are much more lax than those of California, and the hydropower projects in B.C. have significant impacts on rivers and streams, including changing the amount and timing of streamflow. Knowing this, members of the CHRC, including American Whitewater California Stewardship Director and CHRC Chair Dave Steindorf, met with representatives, testified at hearings, mobilized opposition to B.C. hydro as part of RPS, and educated the Commission about what “run of river” hydropower really looks like. Keith Nakatani of the California Hydropower Reform Coalition, Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee, and Arthur Caldicott and Aaron Hill of Watershed Watch were particularly instrumental in the process.

Our efforts paid off last week, when the Lead Commissioner issued the final report, finding that any new or repowered project in B.C. would not comply with California’s standard for imported RPS power, and that there was no reason to recommend that the existing RPS eligibility requirements be modified.



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    scotty on denman

    What would you bet that a substantial number of Ruin of River projects could be shit-canned for regulatory infractions? Right now. When we all thought the BC Liberals were going to lose the election, there was an absolute frenzy of Ruin of River constructions that are very slap-dash.

    Ruin of River has everything to do with the intentional bankrupting of BC Hydro so’s to sell it to insiders for pennies on the dollar (insiders make donations to the BC Liberal party for the privilege).

    Lois Thompson

    Good for California is all I can say. B.C., where we live, is becoming a big disappointment under Christy Clark. Environmental protection is coming at the end of the list and maybe even nonexistant.


    Oh great. It looks like we’ll be stuck with paying for more power… that we don’t need.
    Krispy Clark’s liberals are bankrupting B.C.

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