Metro Vancouver will soon launch its search for sites for a new waste-to-energy plant that is sure to be controversial in whatever neighbourhoods are picked and potentially lucrative for the successful host city.
Starting in July, land owners interested in hosting a new garbage incinerator will be asked to step forward and advise the regional district of their interest.
Metro will short-list up to five sites that it would secure with options to purchase that could see the regional district pay out up to $7.5 million to the land owners as compensation while they wait to see if their site is chosen.
Meanwhile, some of the 19 companies proposing various technologies to build the new plant may have secured sites of their own that would also be added to the list.
All proposed sites would be made public by the end of this year ahead of public consultations to gauge community support.
Host sites don’t necessarily have to be within Metro Vancouver. Sites further away, such as on Vancouver Island, would have one advantage: defusing opposition from Fraser Valley residents who fear more air pollution wafting their way.
And there could be sites in the Fraser Valley itself – one of the proponents is named Chilliwack Bioenergy Group and owned by local businessmen there.
But other factors will also be in play, according to Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, vice-chair of Metro’s zero waste committee.
Undeveloped greenfield sites or others where intensive redevelopment is expected – such as Surrey’s City Centre – may better harness steam heat or electricity generated by the plant for a district energy system supplying nearby buildings.
“There are some benefits that can go to a community as a result of that,” Corrigan said. “Also it encourages development in areas where you might not have been able to encourage development before, because they’ve got this source of energy.”
He said a city could parlay a waste-to-energy plant into success in several ways.
If it proposes a site in the midst of a larger area of industrial land it already owns, the city can later sell off its surrounding land at a profit to industries or other buildings that spring up around it, also pocketing development fees and a permanent jump in its property tax base.
Since any site proponent can put whatever conditions they want on it, the city could also insist it get electricity or heat from the Metro incinerator at wholesale rates and then use the offer of discount power – lower than BC Hydro’s prices – as a carrot to draw developers to the precinct.
Besides being a powerful economic development lever, the resulting district energy enclave may also be trumpeted as cutting greenhouse gases.
“It’s a really good green badge for ciites,” Corrigan said, adding a new incinerator could power the equivalent of 15,000 homes with garbage that would otherwise be landfilled.
“Obviously this isn’t going to be as clean as burning natural gas or getting hydro from a dam. It wouldn’t be your fuel of choice. But the idea is you create energy from the garbage because youre stuck with the garbage.”
Cities and First Nations can both directly propose their own property and the Tsawwassen First Nation has had talks with Aquilini Renewable Energy – one of the proponents – about hosting the plant on TFN treaty land.
Covanta Energy, which runs the existing Burnaby incinerator, is also behind a proposal to burn Metro waste at a former pulp mill at Gold River, on the west side of Vancouver Island.
It was also suggested at Metro’s waste management committee Thursday that New Westminster – which has its own electrical utility – could be a good fit.
Delta may also surface as a site when the final list is unveiled – Lehigh Cement, which runs the cement plant on River Road, is another proponent.
Metro intends to pick a site by 2015, which would later be paired with a winning proponent that would have the new waste-fired plant built by 2018.
Corrigan acknowledges concerns that strategies to reduce or recycle more waste may falter because because the incinerator must be fed.
But he said the expected capacity of the plant – 370,000 tonnes per year – has already been scaled back and he doubts the region’s waste stream can be cut enough to render a new plant redundant.
Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt said he thought it “crazy” that municipalities might be paid money by Metro for options on their own sites.
Metro officials say potential land needs to be secured, but a municipality could waive payment for the option and that could improve its site’s position on the short list.
Metro won’t share ownership
Metro directors also decided the new plant or plants – if more than one is built – will be owned by Metro, ruling out P3 private ownership or a Metro-municipal partnership.
Corrigan said that helps simplify what is already a highly complex procurement process.
A private firm could not have borrowed the $500 million that will likely be needed at the low interest rates the regional district gets, he added.
But private partners will still play key roles building the plant and supplying technology and expertise.
Corrigan also cautioned other Metro directors against talking to proponents or their lobbyists as the regional district begins assessing the merits of bidders and their technologies.
Cankor ConsortiumTME S.P.A. Termomeccanica EcologiaAcciona Infracture SenerPlenary Group CanadaCovanta EnergyWheelabrator TechnologiesSentinel Waste InternationalChilliwack Bioenergy Group3R SynergieMustang – JFE – Metro VancouverAlter NRGOrgaworld CanadaMetso PowerAnaergia IncAquilini Renewable EnergyEnergy Answers InternationalLehigh CementEurete EnterprisesAecom