bc-081106-miller-creek

The Miller Creek project is a run-of-the-river hydroelectric station typcial of many proposed independent power projects in BC Hydro's long-term plan. (EPCOR)

The B.C. Utilities Commission has pulled the plug on BC Hydro's controversial plan to buy electricity from dozens of run-of-river and wind-power projects.

The utilities commission has determined the long-term acquisition scheme is not practical and not in the public interest.

The commission has directed the utility instead to continue using the gas-fired Burrard thermal plant.

The NDP says the decision is a major setback for Hydro and the Liberal government of Premier Gordon Campbell.

"It's a slap in the face to the B.C. Liberal energy plan," said B.C. NDP energy critic John Horgan. "The regulator has said we don't need this high-priced independent power at this time."

During the May provincial election campaign, environmental organizations were split on whether or not the small power projects were a good idea. And at least one environmentalist criticized the commission's decision.

Tzeporah Berman of Power Up Canada says it's a serious blow to clean energy and to climate leadership in B.C. Berman says it's absurd for the province to continue to rely on greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels.

Run-of-river projects, for example are considered cleaner than conventional hydro power generation because they rely on natural river flows and elevation and require no dams, reservoirs or flooding.

The ruling has left some independent power producers pondering their next move as they watch their stocks plummet.

Plutonic Power Corp., a bidder for many of the province's smaller hydro projects, saw its price on the Toronto Stock Exchange drop nearly 25 per cent Tuesday, to $3.08.