Earlier on in April, I had the pleasure of visiting Princeton Co-Generation along with Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Director, Brad Hope. I would like to thank Glenn Smith and others at the plant for making this interesting and informative visit possible.
Princeton Co-Generation, which was founded in 1994, owns and operates a 100,000 ton wood pellet mill and is the fourth largest employer in the town. It produces a much sought after carbon neutral green energy product.
The pellet mill supports thirty five (35) full time equivalent jobs (many at entry level) at the pellet plant, and supports a further seventy (70) full time equivalent jobs which transport feed stock – saw dust and shavings from BC interior saw mills to the pellet plant, and deliver finished goods – fuel pellets and animal bedding products throughout Canada, the West Coast of the U.S.A., and to Vancouver port for export to Europe and Asia. The pellet mill contributes in excess of $8 million per year to the local economy.
The pellet plant exports roughly 60 per cent of its product, the majority of which is being utilized in Europe to offset emissions from coal fired power plants. South Korea is also emerging as a key market for 2013 and beyond.
The current owners purchased the pellet plant in 2006 for a consideration of five million dollars. They have subsequently invested a further 4.5 million dollars in plant upgrades to increase the pellet plant capacity from 60,000 to 100,000 tons per year, despite significant economic challenges for the pellet industry during the last three years, recent and partial closure of B.C. interior saw mills, and the loss of export pricing advantage against the U.S. dollar.
B.C. provincial policies supporting climate change policy, renewable energy, and good use of forestry assets remain the key attraction for the ownership group, which would like to continue and expand operations at Princeton if possible.
There were however a number of economic challenges which arose in 2012, namely significant unplanned mandated expenditure on pellet plant upgrades and electrical equipment, as a consequence of provincial saw mill incidents. Despite these economic challenges, the owners of Princeton Co-Generation remain very proactive and have managed to meet the additional unplanned expenditures.
It is my hope that both the federal and provincial governments will be able to assist Princeton Co-Generation to continue its existing operation and potentially grow to meet an ever growing demand for its green energy products.
Princeton Co-Generation has been a trusted and pro-active business and employer in the area for 18 years and is at the forefront of addressing a wide variety of community issues, climate change, and environmental issues, and continues to support and make financial contributions to local groups with strong community ties.