Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nuclear renaissance in California? Prospect puts pressure on B.C. regulator to approve Alcan-Hydro deal
Back in February, I mentioned the juicy opportunities open to low- or zero-emission electricity generators who aspire to sell power to California. The utility regulator in British Columbia had shot down a power purchase deal between Alcan and BC Hydro because, it said, Alcan’s price was too high.


Ironically, the regulator’s decision could end up proving just the opposite: that Hydro got an excellent price from Alcan. And this proof could come in the form of a deal between Alcan and a California buyer.

A proposal to reverse a legislative ban against nuclear power in California recently went to the state legislature. Its immediate chances of success are not good, but nuclear proponents might find another way of breaking through the ban. Nuclear generation may again be permitted in the Golden State.

This leaves other purveyors of zero-emission power with a small window of opportunity to set up long-term power supply deals before nuclear generators figure out a way to market the atom to skeptical left coast power consumers. They’d better get a move on. More and more polls in California show increasing public support for nuclear power as a way to fight climate change.

Don’t think that the long lead-time for nuclear construction means no power sales until a plant is built. Imaginative nuclear proponents could finance new nuclear construction projects, at least partially, with future power sales. They would likely begin lining up sales the minute new nuclear build gets the go-ahead, which could come either in the form of the just-mentioned legislative proposal or a successful ballot initiative in next year’s election.

Alcan knows that the time is ripe to market clean, green hydro power from pristine British Columbia. So does BC Hydro. Does the regulator?

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