The BC Utilities Commission has approved an electricity purchase agreement for a Covanta waste-to-energy facility in Burnaby, paving the way for a higher-paying agreement between BC Hydro and a controversial new waste-to-energy facility.
The pursuit of a waste-to-energy strategy in Metro Vancouver has drawn out vocal opponents of the technology, decrying it as dirty energy. If the electricity purchase agreements were to move forward, critics argued that facilities should be paid dollars in line with US export prices, as it can’t be considered renewable energy under provincial definitions.
The Commission, however, ruled that issues of air pollution were not relevant in approving Covanta’s new electricity agreement, which came out at $43 per megawatt hour. Export prices are nearly half that number.
The Burnaby waste-to-energy facility, which opened in 1988, burns 285,000 tonnes of waste per year, while a new facility at a yet-to-be-determined location would burn an additional 370,000 tonnes.
The proposed waste-to-energy facility for Metro Vancouver, estimated to cost more than $500 million, is expected to earn substantially more per megawatt hour for its electricity agreement.
How energy from waste works:
1. Municipal waste is delivered to our facilities and stored in a bunker.
2. The waste is transferred to a combustion chamber where self-sustaining combustion is maintained at extremely high temperatures. We maintain the building around the tipping and bunker area under negative pressure and use this air in the combustion process to control odor.
3. The heat from the combustion process boils water.
4. & 5. The steam from the boiling water is used directly, or more frequently, the steam drives a turbine that generates electricity.
6. Electricity is distributed to the local grid.
7. Ash from combustion is processed to extract metal for recycling. It is then combined with residue from the air pollution control process (see items 9 and 10).
8. The combined ash is either disposed of in a monofill (where only ash is stored) that receives only that waste, used as cover material at a conventional landfill, or landfilled with other waste.
9. All gases are collected, filtered and cleaned before being emitted into the atmosphere. We manage gas from the combustion process with state-of-the-art air pollution control technology that operates to state and federal standards.
10. We control emissions of particulate matter primarily through a baghouse (fabric filter).
11. We monitor criteria and other pollutants and operating parameters to ensure compliance with permit conditions.