Renewable energy shows “promise” in Canada’s western province but, to date, it has “not been price competitive,” according to government policy.VICTORIA, British Columbia, CA, 2001-09-12 [SolarAccess.com] Renewable energy shows “promise” in Canada’s western province but, to date, it has “not been price competitive,” according to government policy. The provincial government has launched an Energy Policy Task Force to develop a comprehensive, long-term energy policy for the province by early next year. It has also frozen power rates from BC Hydro until March 2003, to allow time to implement improvements in British Columbia’s hydroelectricity industry. “The measures we are announcing today are the first steps in honouring our New Era commitment to restore an independent BC Utilities Commission, and to re-regulate BC Hydro’s electricity rates,” says premier Gordon Campbell. “The task force will look at the province’s energy resources and make recommendations in less than six months on the best way to use them for the benefit of all British Columbians.” Members of the task force come from government, the oil and gas sector, and an expert in hydroelectricity. “British Columbia does not have an explicit energy policy,” says the terms of reference for the group. “British Columbia must develop a comprehensive new energy policy, designed specifically to guide all participants in the energy sector as to where we are going and how best to get there.” End-use demand is growing, and new supplies in the near term will come from natural gas power plants or expansions of existing hydroelectric facilities, it notes. The growth of independent power in the province has been limited, and “renewables or alternative energy show promise but to-date have not been price competitive.” Recent changes in continental energy prices suggest that the demand for electricity, natural gas, petroleum and coal is strong, and B.C. has the potential to take advantage of this increased demand “if we are structurally and competitively sound in a North American energy market that is increasingly interconnected.” The infrastructure required to move the province’s energy to market will require ongoing expansion that must be “planned and market driven.” The objective of the group is to develop an energy policy framework for B.C. that will “foster energy development in the province consistent with exemplary environmental practices.” Energy policy will be informed by key environmental issues pertaining to each energy source and the environmental issues pertaining to key environmental considerations relevant to each source. It will consider “the importance of energy conservation and demand side management in ensuring an appropriate demand/supply balance in energy” and “the future role for renewables” in the province. “Energy policy is to be guided by the consistent application of market forces across all sources of energy,” including renewables, says the document. “Application of this principle should result in all sources of energy being subject to similar rigours of the market, focused as much as possible on competition and choice.” Development of the provincial energy policy will take three phases and will be completed within 12 months, including implementation. Background reports will be ready by the end of September, and a draft policy by November 30. Consultation with selected parties will start in January, and the report will be submitted by February 15.