Conducting a thermal energy study and having its cost reimbursed by FortisBC will not obligate the city to purchase natural gas from FortisBC, City of Powell River committee of the whole members were told recently.
At the Tuesday, October 1, meeting of the committee, councillors reviewed correspondence from resident Paul McMahon, who asked if there were strings attached to the study’s potential rebate.
City council, at the Thursday, September 19, council meeting, approved a $28,000 expenditure to conduct a thermal energy study for Powell River Recreation Complex. The city hopes to recoup the expenditure from FortisBC, which will fund 50 per cent of the study upon completion, and the remaining 50 per cent when the city implements the recommendations.
McMahon stated in his letter that the city is potentially committed to a million-dollar upgrade that will lock the city in as a natural gas user for the next 25 years, during a period when natural gas prices will increase dramatically due to the increase in the carbon tax.
“Now why would FortisBC financially assist the city to upgrade the thermal generating systems? Answer: to effectively lock in the city as a natural gas customer, through equipment selection, for the next 25 years,” stated McMahon.
Mayor Dave Formosa said he read McMahon’s letter and McMahon was cautioning the city to be careful it doesn’t get caught in a possible entrapment.
“From what I’m reading here, read the contract is what he is saying,” said Formosa. “Be careful for what you wish for because if you take the money from the gas company and you do this study, from what I’m reading here, it’s obliging you to do something else, which is contract with them for a situation where you are beholden to them for the next 30 years, and who knows what the price of natural gas will be? It’s a very long time to have to say you are only going to buy your heating fuel from one agent for 30 years.
“My first question would be: what do we have for a backup? Are we really handicapping ourselves with one provider and do we have a backup way our furnaces can go into electricity or propane from natural gas? It’s either gas or electricity. Gas is a good bet but there is something to this so I’d like to flesh it out.”
Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said the points McMahon raises are fair but the issue had been addressed by the city’s sustainability planner when she made a presentation at a previous committee of the whole meeting. Brewer said there was a concern about whether the city would be locked into natural gas, but that’s not the case. The consultant looking into options at the recreation complex will be looking at all options and considerations and the city won’t be locked into natural gas options, according to Brewer.
Sustainability planner Ana Lukyanova said the study does not obligate the city to use natural gas in any way.
“There is no commitment from us to continue buying natural gas or buying more natural gas equipment,” said Lukyanova.