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Landfill firm in line for premium power price
Cache Creek landfill operator Belkorp Environmental will be able to sell electricity to BC Hydro at the same premium price that it wants denied to a new Metro Vancouver incinerator.
That was revealed Monday night, when Belkorp vice-president Russ Black appeared before Port Coquitlam council to pitch his vision for new material recovery facilities and was interrogated by Port Coquitlam Mayor and Metro board chair Greg Moore.
Under questioning from Moore, Black confirmed Belkorp will be able to sell electricity generated from Cache Creek landfill gas to Hydro for $100 per megawatt-hour, a price he last month called an unfair subsidy if it's extended to Metro.
Opponents of Metro's waste-to-energy strategy hope Hydro will offer the regional district much less, demolishing the business case for a new incinerator.
"You think garbage in a dump should get $100 per megawatt-hour? And garbage that's incinerated or gasified that's producing reports about what's actually coming out of it should only get $25 an hour?" asked Moore, referring to the lower price Belkorp says Metro should get.
Black said Hydro accepts power from landfill gas and not incinerated garbage under its green power purchase program because landfill gas is counted as biogenic under B.C.'s Clean Energy Act – its emissions come from decomposing organic matter, not the burning of fossil fuels.
"The incinerator is fossil fuel-based electricity," Black said, adding half its waste stream is plastic. "I disagree with BC Hydro subsidizing this project."
In an interview, Black denied his firm is in a conflict of interest in seeking to limit Metro to a much lower price.
"We're not saying Hydro shouldn't buy Metro electricity. It just ought not be clean or renewable energy."
Black said Belkorp is now capturing 80 to 90 per cent of landfill gas at the Cache Creek dump, dramatically improving its carbon emissions compared to Metro's Burnaby incinerator.
The issue resurfaced Tuesday at Metro's waste-to-energy committee, which will ask Hydro officials to explain their rationale for treating the two sources differently.
That request came from Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.
"I don't understand how it's cleaner to let garbage rot in a landfill than to burn it," he said.
Port Moody Coun. Rick Glumac replied that garbage burned in an incinerator is gone – its carbon released to the atmosphere – while landfilled plastics remain there and could be mined as a resource in the future.
"It is the end of the road when you burn it," Glumac said. "I'm not saying one should be worth more than the other, but there is a difference."
Metro officials say their business case released last month is based on BC Hydro's cost of adding new power. They say while there's currently no specific qualifying program for incinerator power purchase, they believe a negotiated price of around $100/MWh would be reasonable.
They also note a new waste-to-energy plant is not necessarily dependent on selling electricity into the grid. A final proposal could instead involve a district heating system that might be more lucrative than electricity. One of the proponents also would use garbage as fuel to power its Delta cement plant.
Belkorp subsidiary NextUse aims to build a material recovery facility (MRF) in Coquitlam that would pull recyclables out of garbage before it's landfilled or incinerated.
But there's considerable suspicion among some Metro politicians, who doubt such recovery plants will work as well as claimed and see them as running counter to the region's strong track record of encouraging residents to separate recyclables from garbage.
Advocates of the idea think MRFs could help reduce the remaining waste stream to the point a new incinerator is redundant.
Belkorp opposes Metro's incinerator plan and its new Bylaw 280, which would ban waste from being trucked out of the region if it's approved by the province.
The region says it loses money on every load of garbage that goes to Abbotsford, and then usually south to a U.S. landfill, without paying Metro tipping fees.
Critics like Black say it would act as a wall to unfairly force businesses to pay those tipping fees, which are forecast to climb steeply in the coming years.
Metro aims to stop sending garbage to the Cache Creek landfill (pictured above) – if it's able to build a new waste-to-energy plant.