Metro Vancouver's Waste-To-Energy Facility has operated in south Burnaby for more than 25 years. A new incinerator for the region could burn an additional 370

Incinerator power deal gets green light

Regulators dash hopes of Metro Vancouver's waste-to-energy critics

Opponents of Metro Vancouver’s waste-to-energy strategy have been dealt a blow by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

Regulators there have approved an electricity purchase agreement that will see BC Hydro pay $43 per megawatt-hour for power from Metro’s existing garbage incinerator in Burnaby.

Critics had argued Metro’s garbage-fueled electricity can’t count as clean and renewable under provincial law and therefore should be worth much less – closer to the $24 spot price for power exported to the U.S.

The aim of incineration opponents was to blow a hole not just in the revenue from the existing plant but also in the business case for a future new waste-to-energy plant, which Metro Vancouver has assumed will earn around $100 per megawatt-hour.

But the utilities commission decided air pollution concerns raised by the Fraser Valley Regional District were “not relevant” in okaying the contract renewal and made no finding on whether the incinerator counts as clean, green power.

It concluded the negotiated price between BC Hydro and incinerator operator Covanta Energy appropriately reflects the cost of power generation plus a reasonable return.

The $24 spot market price wasn’t an appropriate comparison, the commission said, because it doesn’t apply to electricity that is firm (incinerator power is always on, unlike wind farms) or guaranteed in large volumes for many years.

BC Hydro said the $43 contract price is well below its long-term cost of building new generating capacity of $85 to $100 per megawatt-hour and still attractive compared to the $51 it would pay for non-clean natural gas-fired power.

Metro’s existing incinerator burns 280,000 tonnes of garbage per year, while a new one at a yet-to-be-determined location would take an additional 370,000 tonnes.

Critics of Metro’s strategy had argued BC Hydro will be blocked from paying a premium price for the new incinerator’s electricity, making the project a financial flop, or at least uncompetitive compared to continued landfilling.

Estimates of the capital cost of a new incinerator run as high as $517 million.

Metro Vancouver senior engineer Chris Allan said the BCUC decision wasn’t surprising because it was a renewal of a contract to buy power from an existing source, not for a new one.

Russ Black, vice-president of Cache Creek landfill operator Belkorp Environmental, still predicts Metro won’t get a premium price based on green power for the new incinerator because the regional district admitted during the proceedings that 40 per cent of the energy from garbage comes from non-renewable sources like plastics, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’ve laid the foundation for the fight in the future,” he said.

But even an unfavourable power price from Hydro may still not be the silver bullet critics hope would unravel Metro’s plans.

“Not every technology is reliant on selling electricity,” said Metro board chair Greg Moore, noting the new plant might sell little to no power into the grid and instead pipe steam to a district heating system or an industrial user.

He noted one of the waste-to-energy project bidders is a Delta cement plant that has no plans to sell to Hydro at all.

“You’ve got Lehigh Cement that makes cement and they want to replace coal and rubber tires with municipal solid waste as fuel.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peace Portal Alliance Church, at the corner of King George Boulevard and 152 Street, is the extreme-weather shelter for South Surrey for the upcoming season. It is to have 14 mats available nightly for those experiencing homelessness, regardless of weather conditions. (Tracy Holmes photo)
14 beds planned for South Surrey extreme-weather shelter

Webinar tonight to field questions, share info on Peace Portal Alliance Church refuge

White Rock Whalers president Ronnie Paterson (inset photo) is hopeful the team and City of White Rock will be able to find a solution that will allow the Whalers and their PJHL opponents to use the dressing rooms at Centennial Arena. (Jody Harris photo)
Whalers waiting to hear on dressing-room availability as PJHL home-opener looms

White Rock team owner ‘confident’ hurdles can be overcome in talks with city

Fraser Health declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at Delta Hospital on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Grace Kennedy photo)
Outbreak over at Delta Hospital

In all, 45 cases of COVID-19 were identified and seven patients died during the outbreak

The Sunshine Band Club video posted to Youtube.
VIDEO: Surrey youth band shines light on ‘COVID blues,’ raises money for hospital

Virtual concert from Sunshine Band Club, established last March

Not everybody lined up to vote on Saturday. In Surrey, 68,396 mail-in ballots still need to be counted for the final election tally. (Black Press Media)
North Surrey voters steer left, South Surrey voters steer right

Once again, it’s NDP orange in the city’s north end, Liberal red in the south

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Graphic on promo material for Best Buy Canada’s Tech Wonderland event.
Drive-through ‘Tech Wonderland’ coming to PNE site a few weeks before Christmas

Best Buy Canada-backed ‘holiday’ event to raise money for charity

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of seven-year-old in Langley was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. government photo)
Unnamed school in Fraser Health region closed due to COVID-19

Closure announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry during daily briefing

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

Most Read