Independent Power Producers Association of BC president Steve Davis said yesterday his industry would support increased government scrutiny of the cumulative impact of independent power projects. But he disagreed with prominent environmentalist David Suzuki's suggestion that there needs to be a better system for distributing water licenses and Crown land licenses.
In his most recent column, Mr. Suzuki wrote even though an individual independent power project may seem environmentally benign, the "cumulative impact of many could be detrimental."
In response, Mr. Davis said his industry would "broadly" support having government take a closer look at those impacts, which are already reviewed by the federal environmental assessment process.
"Environmental regulations can always be tweaked and improved somewhat," he stated. "It's a matter of not having too many layers of overlapping reviews which will ultimately slowdown the movement to green energy projects."
But Mr. Davis rejected Mr. Suzuki suggestion that the distribution of water licenses and Crown land licenses needs to be improved "to avoid the gold-rush mentality that is leading numerous private interests to stake claims on rivers for power projects."
"What has happened in the last seven or eight years is there has been a significant increase in the number of projects that are being investigated and looked for around the province of B.C. And what the opponents of IPPs have been successful in doing is scaring people into being concerned about the number of applications," Mr. Davis explained.
"And, to draw a parallel, there's tens of thousands of mining claim applications in British Columbia. But there's only in the order of 50 or 60 operating mines. And so I would suggest that those that are interested in green energy and green jobs and things like that should welcome the fact there's lots of sites being looked at. But where they should appropriately be concerned is whether there's in fact a gold rush of projects that are actually getting built. And there is not a gold rush of projects getting built."
"They go through very thorough permitting and licensing review processes," Mr. Davis continued. "They have to bid and compete to win BC Hydro contracts. They have to get financing, etc. So it's unfortunate that people have confused the high number of searches versus the view number of projects getting built."
So, if that's the case, why does Mr. Suzuki - a supporter of independent power projects - believe there needs to be a better system for distributing water licenses and Crown land licenses?
"I think he's probably had his concerns heightened by the allegations made by the opponents," responded Mr. Davis. "And, as I've said, they've been successful in scaring people at looking at the front-end of the spectrum of projects rather than the back-end. He's a busy guy. He's got an international outlook. He looks at lots of different subjects."
"My sense is he's tried to understand the industry. But he may not fully appreciate the difference from the very front-end - where there's lots of activity - from the back-end. Because all of the attention has been focused on the front-end of searches."