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Bullfrog Power launches in BC

You know a name is marketable when it can be used as a verb. As in: Did you know the David Suzuki Foundation is Bullfrogging its 4th Avenue Vancouver office?

Renewable energy provider Bullfrog Power Inc. leaped into the British Columbia market at its official launch in Vancouver this week.

It's product is "low-impact, renewable electricity" says president Tom Heintzman (renewable, because it comes from wind or hydro projects, and low-impact as certified by Environment Canada’ EcoLogo program.)

Whenever a megawatt hour of electricity is produced from an EcoLogo project, a green energy certificate is created. These certificates represent the green electricity that you buy, but Bullfrog is not actually power producer. And it's more expensive; the cost is your average electricity use in kilowatt hours multiplied by .02 (two cents per kilowatt hour) plus tax.

The company has gained a following since it launched in 2005, with 8,000 residents and 900 business customers in Ontario and Alberta, including some high-profile ones, like the Tragically Hip. This year's Juno awards will also be Bullfrog powered.

It won't necessarily be a harder sell in B.C., said Heintzman, just different.

"There is a high amount of non-carbon emitting power already in the province," he said. "But people are extremely well-educated about environmental issues here."

Peter Robinson, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, noted that Bullfrog is "landing themselves in the middle of a significant controversy in B.C. right now," referring to the growing opposition to private power development -- most of which has been focused on large, run of river projects.

"High-impact hydro is better than coal," said Vancouver customer Ian McSorley, who buys Bullfrog for his home and business electricity use.

"The difference for me was the low-impact option."

Robert Takeuchi is the general manager of sunscreen manufacturer Kinesys, which purchases Bullfrog power for its operations. He said the company made the switch part wanted to "promote more wind." Heintzman also said Bullfrog wants to promote wind energy in the province, which he says is underrepresented here

Currently, there aren't any operating wind projects here. B.C. Bullfrog consumers will buy electricity from a wind project in Alberta and a hydro project near Revelstoke.

Will Bullfrog create enough market demand here to make a difference in the the wind industry?

Doug McClelland, director of communications for Naikun Wind Energy Group, said his company plans projects in 400 MW increments, so the promise of an extra 10 MW or so from customer demand wouldn't be relevant to whether their project proceeds or not.

But "knowing that people supports this kind of power is important," he said.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee

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