Monica Lamb-Yorski photo After running a small microhydro power plant on two different locations on Morehead Creek since 1990, Ron Williams has been told his electricity purchase agreement will not be renewed.

Independent power plant operator near Likely loses electricity purchase agreement

Ron Williams has operated a microhydro plant on Moorhead Creek since the 1990s

A Likely area resident is losing the electricity purchase agreement he has had with BC Hydro for almost 30 years.

Ron Williams has operated Morehead Valley Hydro Inc. and said he received an EPA on April 4, 1990 along with what is now Atlantic Power in Williams Lake when it was Northwest Energy.

“We were the first ones to get them,” he said. “Mine is a very small microhydro power plant on two different locations on Morehead Creek which is historically the lake they damned up near Likely for the Bullion Pit. I just made utilization of two different sites and there were no environmental issues.”

In fact, he added, he solved an environmental issue of the creek drying up every year by maintaining flow for the fish.

“Now I don’t know what will happen because I’ll probably have to pull all my works out,” he said, noting he has invested $360,000 originally to build the infrastructure and thousands of more dollars on top of that.

He installed a small pipeline and powerhouse and used a water wheel to generate electricity.

“It is not really rocket science,” he said when asked if he had any previous experience with hydro projects.

Williams grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and moved to the Cariboo in 1979.

“I came out to work in the area and I wound up on that creek. I have property and a woodlot in the area and have been living there for 40 years.”

His EPA has been expired for four and a half years, and B.C. Hydro kept him going, he said, explaining he is contracted for 110 kilowatts per hour.

In comparison, Atlantic Power is contracted for 68 megawatts an hour, he said.

Read more: COLUMNS: Biomass IPPS should have special status

For the last seven years he has been on a reduced output, because he did not know if his contract would be renewed, and he did not want to invest in the project.

“It has been working, but not at full capacity.”

When asked if he is appealing the cancellation of his EPA, he said he does not know what he can do.

“They originally chose me because I was at the end of that long line to Likely and it helped keep the voltage up when there was a demand on the line. They also were given direction by the Social Credit government at the time to start buying power from independent power projects (IPPs).”

Williams said the cancellation of IPPs is totally political.

“In this case it’s NDP philosophy about IPPs. Obviously the Liberals had a different philosophy and BC Hydro marched to a different drum. BC Hydro has always wanted to build Site C and the IPPs were starting to generate too much power.”

On average, he generated $30,000 to $35,000 a year and out of that had $15,000 in expenses.

“I was doing it to save the planet at the time.”

Now, he said he feels as if he’s had a home invasion.

“I’ve been kicked in the gut and it’s literally destroyed my property. I was hoping this would be my retirement plan.”

There are only one or two other people in the same boat as him — one small project in the Kootenays, although they are hoping to rationalize with BC Hydro to keep open, he added.

“They take my power in for eight cents and they turn around and they sell it for 12 cents so they are not being honest with the claim that IPPs are costing $16 billion. “They are adding up column A, but they are not including column B.”

He said he feels as if he is being used as an example for what is in store for the rest of the IPPs.

Read more: B.C. Hydro rates to rise another 8.1 per cent in next five years

In an e-mailed response, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources said as of Dec. 31, 2018, BC Hydro has 131 EPAs with Independent Power Producers, representing outstanding commitments of $51 billion.

BC Hydro has a responsibility to ensure they administer EPAs with IPPs in their customers’ best interest, the ministry noted, adding since 2016, four EPAs for hydroelectric projects have been renewed by BC Hydro and accepted by the BCUC. Three additional hydroelectric EPAs were renewed in spring 2018, and are being reviewed by the BCUC and no further hydroelectric EPAs have been renewed since spring 2018.

“Government and BC Hydro have worked together to develop a biomass energy strategy to address the seven EPAs for biomass projects due to expire prior to March 2022.”

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