The BC Liberal Party continues its wealth redistribution program, the one taking money from the pockets of every citizen in the province to enrich their friends, the brave entrepreneurs in the risk free, profit-making enterprise of producing electricity using public assets and selling that electricity to the public at prices more than three times market value, perhaps more.
While opposition dissidents were focused on bringing down Carole James, John Horgan, the NDP’s critic for BC Hydro was talking about electricity rates, and giving us this news: Consumers hit with 50 per cent hydro rate hike under B.C. Liberals’ energy scheme.
You can read Horgan’s press release for details but these graphs shed light on the news. BC Hydro is forced to purchase electricity from private power producers scattered around the province. To ensure those enterprises are handsomely profitable to their owners – needy companies such as General Electric – BC Hydro pays far more than the power is worth, either in the monopoly domestic market or the loss inducing export market. American consumers are putting in place their own cheaper options and are not now willing, nor will they later be willing, to buy BC Hydro’s new power at the prices arranged. These are more than double present new power costs in the USA.
The graph shows the average purchase price for the most recent round of private energy buys, along with the price BC residential consumers presently pay (far more than industrial users) and the recent average price on the spot market in the Pacific Northwest.
With recently announced increases to residential rates for three additional years, BC Hydro rates will have risen more than 50% in five years. This is brought to us by the politicians who have frozen the minimum wage for a decade and whose existing policy is to continue that freeze forever. This graph demonstrates the average cost of residential electricity, along with a line showing the planned minimun wage level.
Despite high prices to private power producers, today’s deals are further sweetened through price escalator clauses that ensure prices continue to rise. BC Hydro’s generation cost is 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) at its existing “heritage” hydroelectric facilities. Had W.A.C. Bennett’s government made deals similar to the Campbell government, we might be paying monthly power bills to General Electric that are three or four times present amounts. As it is, the citizens of BC, who borrowed the money to build dams in the sixties and paid once for their capital costs, gain the benefit of public power generated in publicly owned rivers in perpetuity or until dishonest politicians privatize these assets for reasons of efficiency.
In 2005, a BC Liberal panel chaired by Barry Penner spoke of the wonders of new energy sources. The BC Sustainable Energy Association promised as many as 400,000 new jobs as British Columbia became “a global hub for one of the largest market opportunities in history,” The association executive director said, “Everyone who pays a BC Hydro bill would pay an extra, say, half-cent per kilowatt hour which supports the development of new emergent technologies,”
Anyone care to examine those five year old promises? Four hundred thousand jobs? World leadership in new energy technology? All for the cost of half a cent per kilowatt hour? Well, no. Not even close. Rather, we look at a few handfuls of permanent jobs with near zero advances in original energy technology and zero progress in becoming a “global hub”. Incidentally, many of the “low impact” sustainable power projects cause widespread environmental impact with construction of dams, spillways, river diversions, generation, distribution and service facilities. Also, large areas of wilderness have been blocked from public use.
And the half-cent per KWh? The residential rate increases will soon be more than ten times that amount. But clearly, a few people have profited well, including Paul Taylor, Gordon Campbell’s new Chief of Staff, who left government and stopped being a “blabby deputy minister” long enough to earn 7 figures in the private power industry. Naikun Wind blessed Taylor with a buy-out of $665,000 in 2010, a move that made him available to rejoin government and partner with old friend Gordon Campbell in Victoria. As in nature, the cycle can begin again.
Of course, a few higher-purpose-people believe we should pay even higher residential rates for electricity. People like former environmentalist Tzeporah Berman argue that cheap power is a curse for residents and industry alike. They want to see dramatic additional price increases for consumers.