Green Island, Gold River, Jewel, and the Crown

by Yule Heibel on April 10, 2003

A group of investors has purchased a former pulp mill on northern Vancouver Island and plans to turn it into an electrical generating plant. The former mill will burn waste wood chips, which will make it exempt from Kyoto Protocol sanctions. Deteriorating wood emits carbon dioxide whether burned or left to rot naturally, hence it’s exempt.

One of the investors is the Alaskan-born pop star Jewel, whose Project Clearwater is part of her humanitarian foundation, Higher Ground for Humanity. Clearwater is active in Central and South America, and elsewhere, working to prevent water contamination and to ensure people’s access to clean water.

The new owners of Gold River’s ex-pulp mill are called Green Island Energy, and they are investors jumping into the breach created by the BC Liberal government’s strategy of deregulation. As the Vancouver Sun article (click on title) points out, BC Hydro still has “iron-fisted control of the province’s high-voltage transmission lines [which] makes it impossible for a private-sector generator to ship power directly to a willing buyer. [But:] The policy introduced last November by Energy and Mines Minister Richard Neufeld will wrest control of transmission lines from Hydro and put them in the hands of a separate crown agency that will more or less function as a toll-booth operator that collects a fee from companies that use the lines. It’s expected that the new, open transmission policy will take about a year to implement — and that’s right in line with Green Island’s plan to start shipping electricity in early 2004.”

BC Hydro still wants to hang on to its dreams of mega-projects, however, including the notion of building a gas pipeline that will run from the mainland (Vancouver area) to Vancouver Island (Nanaimo). It’s a project truly worthy of the trash bin: first, build a pipeline underwater, underground, running through island chains in the Strait of Georgia, disrupting one of the world’s most beautiful ecosystems, then burn natural gas to fire generators that will create electricity with which people would not just light, but heat, their homes. They would not get the gas to heat their homes; they would get electricity that created by burning the gas. That’s the plan. BC Hydro wasn’t happy with Green Island Energy’s out-of-the-blue announcement today of alternative electricity sources down the road, and huffily emphasized that it “was baffled by [Clearwater’s Sean] Ebnet’s suggestion that the [Gold River] project could render unnecessary the crown corporation’s plan to building a 750-megawatt gas-fired generating plant at Nanaimo. [That’s the one that will burn gas to make electricity.] Hydro media relations manager Elisha Odowichuk noted that while the B.C. energy plan will allow private generators to sell to industry, it forbids them selling to commercial and domestic buyers — markets that the Duke Point plant at Nanaimo is intended to serve.”

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