In the climax of the film "Toy Story 3," as Woody, Buzz, Jessie and the rest of Andy's toys are about to be incinerated in a local garbage dump, a miracle happens. Just in the nick of time, a metal claw drops from the sky, picks up the toys, and deposits them safely away from a fiery doom.
Taxpayers should be hoping and praying for a similar claw to pluck us out of the half-a-billion dollar waste incinerator plan Metro Vancouver has concocted.
The only way this incinerator doesn't become a boondoggle for Metro taxpayers is if BC Hydro ratepayers drastically overpay to purchase the electricity the incinerator will create.
At a Metro waste committee meeting in late April, an updated incinerator business plan was presented to various regional mayors and councillors. In it, Metro cut the projected size of the incinerator but still hiked the price tag.
What was once expected to be a $480-million project handling 500,000 tonnes of trash a year is now a $517-million project dealing with only 370,000 tonnes. And that's before either a builder or site has been selected - one suspects this cost will go nowhere but up.
But it is Metro's hope that BC Hydro will overpay for the energy the incinerator will produce that is most galling. Why should Hydro ratepayers be on the hook to save Metro's plan?
Currently, the spot price for electricity has been hovering around $55/MWh (megawatt hour). This is the price paid when purchasing power from outside sources. For example, if BC Hydro needed to purchase some electricity generated by a natural gas power plant owned by a private company, $55/MWh is all they would normally pay to get that electricity.
However, in order to make the numbers work for the Metro incinerator, they're assuming Hydro will be willing to pay them $100/MWh -- nearly double what the market price for electricity is!
The Ontario government has set a rate of $80/MWh (megawatt hour) for the energy created at an incinerator in Durham. That's 20 per cent less than what Metro hopes to gouge out of Hydro -- and Ontario is hardly known for making wise fiscal decisions in its operations.
BC Hydro's Integrated Resource Plan sets Lower Mainland waste-to-energy prices at $85/MWh, 15 per cent less than Metro's projection and well over the market price. The Metro business case acknowledges this number, but doesn't use it.
It is highly unlikely that Metro will get $100/MWh from BC Hydro. If they do, Hydro has stupidly overpaid for electricity, and ratepayers should be up in arms.
The business plan also relies on the provincial government exempting the incinerator from the carbon tax. But why should the public, industry and every other government agency pay this tax while Metro wriggles off the hook? At least half of what will be burned in the incinerator will be plastic - how can those emissions be exempted from the carbon tax?
Yet there is no mention of the carbon tax in the Metro business case.
It's time for Metro Vancouver to abandon this plan. It's too expensive, it's too risky, and its business case looks to over-promise and under-deliver.
As Metro taxpayers slip closer and closer to the fiery furnace of this incinerator, we can only hope a claw -- in the form of Metro politicians overturning this plan - will drop from the sky and pluck us out of this mess. Otherwise, we'll all get burned.