Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett speaking at Catalyst Paper's distribution centre on the Fraser River in Surrey Thursday.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett speaking at Catalyst Paper's distribution centre on the Fraser River in Surrey Thursday.

Pulp mills get break to save energy

Province unveils $100 million to help industry finance conservation projects as power rates hikes loom

Struggling B.C. pulp and paper mills are being offered $100 million in energy conservation subsidies that Energy Minister Bill Bennett says will pay off through power savings and a stabilized industry.

The three-year initiative will benefit seven thermo-mechanical pulp or paper mills run by Catalyst Paper, Canfor, West Fraser and Paper Excellence, which can get 75 per cent funding for energy-saving projects approved under the new PowerSmart program for industry.

The companies are huge power users, consuming 10 per cent of the electricity BC Hydro sells, and had warned rate increases of 28 per cent over the next five years could threaten their operations and cost local jobs.

Eligible mills are in Crofton, Port Alberni (a paper mill), Powell River, Taylor, Chetwynd, Port Mellon and Quesnel.

The industry’s challenges cast a long shadow in those towns, where pulp and paper jobs are critical to the local economy, and one of the firms – Catalyst – has been emerging from bankruptcy protection.

Encouraging reinvestment in power efficiency will mean savings for the companies involved, Bennett said, and will reduce provincial energy demand.

“BC Hydro will not have to spend $265 million on new generation because these four companies are going to conserve that much electricity,” Bennett said, adding it will also help protect thousands of jobs across the province.

Catalyst Paper president Joe Nemeth said steam now vented at the firm’s Powell River mill will be harnessed for power, reducing the plant’s draw on the grid.

“Electricity is about 30 per cent of our cost structure, so it’s a big deal,” he said.

The upgrades are expected to mean power cost savings of $17.5 million a year for the four companies.

NDP energy critic Adrian Dix said the province had no other choice but to step in with aid for the industry in light of the dramatic rate increases ahead.

“This was just going to bury them,” he said.

But Dix said government “incompetence” is to blame for the coming rate shock because of expensive power purchase deals, repeatedly deferred spending, among other decisions at BC Hydro.

“This is them desperately trying to deal with a problem they caused through inept energy policy in the past.”

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

Just Posted

Lake City Secondary School principal Craig Munroe. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
OUR HOMETOWN: Lifelong learning

Lake City Secondary School principal Craig Munroe got his first teaching in Williams Lake

Mayor Walt Cobb waves from atop a tractor as he turns onto Oliver Street in the Daybreak Rotary’s annual Stampede Parade. Patrick Davies photo.
Lack of funding, volunteers has Daybreak Rotary bowing out of Williams Lake Stampede parade

Club learned this week it won’t be receiving local government funding, for the second year in a row

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

Williams Lake’s Brock Hoyer films a segment of the newly-released The Way Home in the city of Revelstoke. (Ryen Dunford photo)
Brock Hoyer stars in new snowbike film: The Way Home

The film is completely free and was released on YouTube on Jan. 22, 2021

The body of Kenneth Seymour Michell was discovered Jan. 14, 2021, behind a Williams Lake business a day after he was released by a judge on conditions. (Photo submitted)
Family looks for answers after Indigenous man dies by suicide following release from custody

System does not care about Indigenous peoples, says First Nations Leadership Council

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Interior Health officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon on Jan. 3, which was followed by the first death from the virus 10 days later. (Kaigo photo)
COVID outbreak over at Vernon care home

Creekside Landing cleared of coronavirus, despite additional death in last day

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read