Decades ago, the West Coast began exchanging electricity. During the summer, when air conditioning use spiked in California, Washington State and British Columbia would ship hydropower down to the Golden State. Later in the year, during California’s mild winters, when rivers levels were low in the Northwest, California would return the favor. The power exchange worked well for everyone.
During California’s 2000-2001 energy crisis, BC Hydro, a state-owned utility, aided in the rampant market manipulation that ended up costing California consumers millions.
California has become America’s largest electricity importer. With 37 million people producing about 13 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, California imports about 23 percent of its electricity. This situation is compounded by the state’s environmental laws which, if a power plant can be built at all, typically consume seven years for permitting and construction vs. three years in competing Texas.
Complicating matters are a trio of California energy policy laws : a 30 percent reduction in California’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, the one that outlaws the renewal of coal-fired electricity contracts, and the requirement that California derive 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources this year, renewable being defined as small hydro, geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass.
With abundant hydro power potential, British Columbia is becomimg the Saudi Arabia of “green” energy. California environmentalists don’t see the irony in British Columbia damming rivers to provide power to California, while in California, environmentalists fight to demolish dams as unsightly threats to salmon.
The irony gets even deeper, though. Severe drought (when California gets a good water year, British Columbia often sees a drought) means that BC Hydro will be importing $220 million more electricity than it did last year. You read it correctly, hydro energy colossus British Columbia will be importing almost a quarter billion dollars more electricity this year than last. In fact, BC Hydro has imported more energy than it has exported in 10 out of 11 years. And, from where does this energy come? Washington State and Alberta Canada. And, what is the source of this electricity? Brace yourself. Coal and gas-fired plants.
The fact is, BC Hydro is buying “dirty” power and then, in an act I’ll dub “electron laundering” is repackaging it for the silly, naive, environmental-minded Californians.
If Canadian reselling of coal power to California wasn’t enough of an insult to common sense and the environment, then here’s one more. Many British Columbians oppose their government’s push to make their province an energy colony of California by submerging more tree-lined river valleys. Some studies suggest the dams drown carbon-impounding trees, which, in turn, rot when they are submerged, releasing large amounts of methane, a gas that is 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide in the greenhouse effect.
Filed Under: Environment