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.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner’s report confirms cause of death of three men at Sooke River in 2020

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen drown while ‘puddle-jumping’ in pickup truck

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

Soloman and Zev Nagler enjoy time on the beach at Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park on a summer day. The Capital Regional District is in the process of determining whether to institute parking fees at this and eight other CRD parks. (Black Press Media file photo)
CRD parks committee rejects new Greater Victoria parking fees – again

More arguments against fee hikes, pay parking at nine parks, brought forward by committee members

A wind warning is in effect for Greater Victoria Thursday afternoon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Strong winds predicted for Greater Victoria

Environment Canada issues warning for Thursday afternoon

From Feb. 25 to April 30, the Galloping Goose Trail will be reduced to a single lane between Gorge Road East and Burnside Road East for a Capital Regional District sewer line renewal project. (Map via the Capital Regional District)
CRD sewer work brings delays to Galloping Goose Trail

Parts of trail, Cecelia Ravine Park impacted until April 30

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Suspect arrested on Gabriola Island an hour after incident Wednesday, Feb. 24

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

Most Read