Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett speaking at Catalyst Paper's distribution centre on the Fraser River in Surrey Thursday.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett speaking at Catalyst Paper's distribution centre on the Fraser River in Surrey Thursday.

Pulp mills get break to save energy

Province unveils $100 million to help industry finance conservation projects as power rates hikes loom

Struggling B.C. pulp and paper mills are being offered $100 million in energy conservation subsidies that Energy Minister Bill Bennett says will pay off through power savings and a stabilized industry.

The three-year initiative will benefit seven thermo-mechanical pulp or paper mills run by Catalyst Paper, Canfor, West Fraser and Paper Excellence, which can get 75 per cent funding for energy-saving projects approved under the new PowerSmart program for industry.

The companies are huge power users, consuming 10 per cent of the electricity BC Hydro sells, and had warned rate increases of 28 per cent over the next five years could threaten their operations and cost local jobs.

Eligible mills are in Crofton, Port Alberni (a paper mill), Powell River, Taylor, Chetwynd, Port Mellon and Quesnel.

The industry’s challenges cast a long shadow in those towns, where pulp and paper jobs are critical to the local economy, and one of the firms – Catalyst – has been emerging from bankruptcy protection.

Encouraging reinvestment in power efficiency will mean savings for the companies involved, Bennett said, and will reduce provincial energy demand.

“BC Hydro will not have to spend $265 million on new generation because these four companies are going to conserve that much electricity,” Bennett said, adding it will also help protect thousands of jobs across the province.

Catalyst Paper president Joe Nemeth said steam now vented at the firm’s Powell River mill will be harnessed for power, reducing the plant’s draw on the grid.

“Electricity is about 30 per cent of our cost structure, so it’s a big deal,” he said.

The upgrades are expected to mean power cost savings of $17.5 million a year for the four companies.

NDP energy critic Adrian Dix said the province had no other choice but to step in with aid for the industry in light of the dramatic rate increases ahead.

“This was just going to bury them,” he said.

But Dix said government “incompetence” is to blame for the coming rate shock because of expensive power purchase deals, repeatedly deferred spending, among other decisions at BC Hydro.

“This is them desperately trying to deal with a problem they caused through inept energy policy in the past.”

Just Posted

(File photo)
The Parksville Civic and Technology Centre at 100 Jensen Ave. (PQB News file photo)
Parksville 2020 annual report now ready for public feedback

Documents can be viewed online; comments or questions to be submitted before noon on July 5, 2021

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased in Parksville

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read