The Burrard Thermal generating station at Port Moody is used only about one per cent of the time and BC Hydro says the likelihood of it being needed as emergency power backup for the Lower Mainland will soon diminish further.

Shutdown of Burrard Thermal power plant opposed

Gas-fired station called critical electricity backup for Lower Mainland but BC Hydro says its time has passed

The province’s plan to shut down the rarely used Burrard Thermal natural gas-fired power plant is under renewed fire from critics who say it provides a crucial emergency backup supply of electricity for the Lower Mainland.

The City of Port Moody, which hosts the plant, says the planned closure in 2016 will put the region at greater risk of power interruption if transmission lines from Interior hydroelectric stations are knocked out.

It issued a report last month that warns the lines are vulnerable to ice storms, flash floods, forest fires, earthquakes and sabotage.

“We’ve seen that in bad weather those lines can come down,” Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay said. “Any interruption of that service will leave the entire Lower Mainland without a fallback.”

Burrard Thermal is capable of generating 900 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 700,000 homes or about nine per cent of BC Hydro’s capacity.

But the province says the 50-year-old plant is inefficient and about $14 million a year would be saved by scrapping it. The plant is almost never used but Clay contends it’s still an important safety net.

“That’s a small price to pay for the integrity of the power grid in Metro Vancouver,” he said.

BC Hydro deputy CEO Chris O’Riley said a new power transmission line is being completed to the Lower Mainland from the Interior, meaning five lines instead of four will soon deliver B.C. power to the region. Another two lines can import power from the U.S.

“On the coldest day of the year we will only need four of those seven lines in place to meet the load here,” O’Riley said.

He acknowledged it may not always be possible to buy U.S. power on the spot market.

But he said it would take a combination of U.S. power being suddenly unavailable and not one but two B.C. power lines failing – all on the coldest day of the winter – before a backup power station might prove useful.

“Yes, you can create scenarios where this would go bad and that would go bad,” O’Riley said. “But it’s hard to justify an argument where all those things happen at the same time.”

The big cost of keeping Burrard Thermal open is the roughly $400 million it would take to upgrade its 1960s-era gas conversion technology for ongoing use, he added.

“It’s really a substantial rebuild of the plant that’s required.”

Significant upgrades were performed in the 1990s, mainly to improve emissions, but O’Riley said pollution from the plant remained a significant environmental issue in the early 2000s.

“There was a lot of concern in the Fraser Valley and locally about the level of emissions, even with the investments that had gone into it.”

Hydro would continue to use part of the Burrard Thermal property to adjust the voltage of incoming electricity even after the generating station is dismantled.

It’s seeking potential new users for the rest of the property, which offers a port, dock facilities and plenty of natural gas and electricity.

Asked if a liquefied natural gas plant is a possibility, O’Riley said no LNG proposals have been received.

“But there’s lots of things you could do there,” he said. “It’s an interesting site.”

Port Moody stands to lose $1.3 million a year in property tax grants – about four per cent of its tax base – but that blow could be eased if a new industry moves in.

Just Posted

Maple Ridge chef tops in B.C. for agriculture in the classroom

Chef Brian Smith named the B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year

Flames drop to eighth in PJHL

Ridge loses two games over the weekend

Man known to frequent Maple Ridge wanted by Langley RCMP

An arrest warrant is out for Bryce Telford for allegedly impersonating a police officer

New Maple Ridge council has old problem: Albion flats

Staff asking for politicians to decide direction

Canada’s archive buys rare book that hints at Nazi plans for North America

The 1944 book may have served as a blueprint for a Nazi purge

Teravainen’s 3 points lift Hurricanes to 5-2 win over Canucks

Vancouver heads into all-star break on losing note

B.C. hospital apologizes for veteran’s five-day hallway stay

Clinical director of Victoria General Hospital says case of retired veteran ‘definitely excessive’

Speaker Darryl Plecas says ‘justice’ needed for legislature employees

Plecas spoke to media at the opening of a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Abbotsford Wednesday

Advocate hopes B.C. legislature scandal leads to more transparency

‘Depressing’ that it takes a scandal to inspire freedom of information reform, says Sara Neuert

‘Dr. Lipjob’ avoids jail, gets 30-day suspended sentence

She will have to serve the 30 days in prison if she commits a breach during her two-year’s probation

Ex-Mountie involved in Taser death at Vancouver airport sues government

Kwesi Millington claims he acted in accordance with RCMP training

47 men arrested by Vancouver police for allegedly seeking sex with teenage girls

Seven of those arrested have been charged as part of a two-month operation

Surrey farmers taking stock of revamped Canada Food Guide

Products that were once big at the table — like meat and dairy — have been put on the back-burner

Most Read