06/21/2013 04:46 EDT | Updated 08/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Gabriola Island Plans Break From BC Hydro

AP File
Residents of Gabriola Island, near Nanaimo, B.C., are in the early stages of a plan to generate and distribute their own power, which could mean a break with Crown corporation BC Hydro.

Michael Mehta, a Gabriola resident formerly involved with SaskPower, is leading the initiative to form an energy co-operative.

He hopes to combine tidal, solar and other green initiatives to make the island energy independent.

Mehta says strong currents make Gabriola Island an ideal spot to generate electricity from tidal power, which he estimates could provide up to a quarter of the island's needs.

"The goal is to move towards net zero, which means we don't use any more power than we produce," he said.

Mehta said that so far there has been a positive response from Gabriola Island's 4,000 residents, some of whom said they liked the idea of independence from BC Hydro.

"On an island like Gabriola, where we have people that are in some cases quite poor, a utility company that is owned by the community could set a rate structure that reflects income," Mehta said."

"So we can meet all the social needs that a big corporate entity like BC Hydro might not be able to."

BC Hydro says it is looking forward to hearing more about the plan as the community moves ahead.

"I don't recall ever seeing a proposal like this from a community that wants to generate its own power," said BC Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk. "But I'd love to sit down and talk with them and see what their plans are."

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