Solar Energy PPAs on BC Government Buildings
Solar Energy PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) on government buildings in remote diesel grid communities offer a significant opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy.
Below is a draft letter to the BC Government encouraging them to adopt a policy for solar energy PPAs:
Subject: Request of a policy to support purchase power agreements for community owned renewable energy projects in rural and remote communities
Honourable Bruce Ralston, George Heyman, Ravi Kahlon, Selina Robinson, and Katrine Conroy,
We write to you today to ask for your support in strengthening the capacity of rural and remote communities to have resilient (secure, reliable, diversified) and renewable energy sources and in reducing green house gas emissions. We know this aligns with BC’s goals for energy supply per the guidebook on Clean Energy Production in B.C. (BC 2016). Supporting renewable energy in rural and remote communities also aligns with the goals of greenhouse gas reduction legislated in our Climate Change Accountability Act (BC 2017).
We request the BC Government to develop clear policies that will empower communities to move forward with renewable energy projects. Specifically, we request a policy to support renewable energy Purchase Power Agreements (PPA) for government-owned facilities on remote diesel grids, in British Columbia Hydro’s non-integrated areas.
Power Purchase Agreements are an effective way for the BC Government to reach its climate targets, decrease government expenditures, and local support electricity self-sufficiency. Under a PPA a solar energy( or other type of) system is installed on a government building at no cost to the government. The system is not owned by the government but they do use the electricity generated by the system. The system can be owned by the local community, increasing local buy-in, a local sense of ownership, as well as local jobs. This model has already been used in BC on non-government buildings.
The host would pay for the electricity produced by the solar service provider. The host would also still purchase any additional electricity needed from the utility. The goal for the solar service provider and the host would be that the solar energy be sold at a lower rate than the cost of energy from the utility, and so, save the host money. This PPA model has been approved by the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC 2015) and is supported by BC Hydro (BC Hydro 2021).
We are proposing this model be used in areas that are not part of BC Hydro’s integrated grid and rely on diesel power, in alignment with the Renewable Energy for Remote Communities (RERC) Program (BC n.d.).
In light of the above, it was disappointing to learn of difficulties associated with implementing these type of project. Two different BC government entities were recently approached about using this model. In both cases, they would not even consider the proposal even though it would mean both monetary and GHG savings at no cost to them. Both sites were in communities served by diesel power so the GHG savings would have been significant. The solar energy systems could have been partly or completely owned by local indigenous communities. Having guidelines or policies for installing PPAs withing the RERC Program is necessary for facilitating community initiated renewable energy projects.
The province of Alberta recently signed an agreement for 94 MW of solar through a PPA (Renewable Energy World 2019). The Alberta project is a “front of the meter” PPA sometimes called a Virtual PPA. In BC the PPAs would generally be behind the meter which has some advantages. As far as we know BC has not explored the solar PPA option.
For all of these reasons, we the undersigned ask the BC government to develop a policy that encourages government departments to pursue community-owned solar PPAs in rural and remote communities, and at sites where there is a good financial and environmental case.