BC Hydro

Power from the powerful

Last week, Toronto’s National Post published a column that might have been written about British Columbia if Postmedia’s Vancouver newspapers were still engaged in journalism:

Ontario electricity has never been cheaper, but bills have never been higher

…The province [of Ontario] signed long-term contracts with a handful of lucky firms, guaranteeing them 13.5 cents per kWh … Obviously, if the wholesale price is around 2.5 cents, …someone has to kick in 11 cents to make up the difference…

Just to make the story more exquisitely painful, if the HOEP [Hourly Ontario Electricity Price] goes down further, for instance through technological innovation, power rates …go up to cover the losses.

Ontario’s policy disaster goes many layers further. If people conserve power and demand drops, …if everyone tries to save money by cutting usage, the price will just increase… Nor do Ontarians benefit through exports. Because the renewables sector is guaranteed the sale, Ontario often ends up exporting surplus power at a loss.

…Electricity is cheaper to make than it’s been for a generation, yet Ontarians are paying more than ever…

I’ve been writing similar information about British Columbia for years but it is not a subject the local corporate press is willing to cover. Here, personal interests and health of the business coalition ranks above the public interest.

Strategies at play in both provinces are similar. Politically connected individuals took advantage of citizens’ desire for clean, renewable energy and the Liberals wrote contracts with “lucky firms” that bore no relationship to market prices, guaranteed massive private profits and ensured all financial risks stayed with the public. The contracts in British Columbia last as long as sixty years and allow prices that are as much as 5x market value. In addition, the contracts have annual inflation escalators, a privilege allowed no other commercial segment.

Across the continent, demand for power has not grown over the last decade, largely through efficiencies. Actual reductions could be realized by applying improved technologies more broadly but that route is not desired by utilities with surplus electricity to sell.

In British Columbia, we are compounding difficulties. Steadily rising purchases of private power add to surpluses and government is rushing to move the Site C dam past “the point of no return” and suspending programs of conservation. All taxpayers get is more power to sell at a loss.


The following item was first published May 2009. The only thing that has changed is the scale of the boondoggle:

I listened to CKNW’s Bill Good interview private power producers at a recent energy conference. Good was a cheerleader determined to broadcast a story that reflected positively on his guests. He helped push the story that BC Hydro has too little financial and intellectual capacity to be an effective power producer and that private companies are best able to ameliorate environmental risks.

Is this the same BC Hydro that operates more than 30 hydroelectric facilities and contributes billions to the public treasury by generating and distributing low cost power throughout 95% of this province? And would that be the same private sector that remediated polluted mining sites and avoided serious pollution by smelters and pulp mills?

When a caller pointed out that BC Hydro is banned from developing new power sources and private projects depend upon advance non-market agreements to purchase expensive power, Mr. Good “didn’t have time for speeches.”

Nor, on April 11, did Sean Leslie and Gordon Campbell have time to answer a caller’s allegation that Campbell associates, former ministerial aides and advisers, left public service to work for private power companies after government approved numerous contracts.

Public Eye Online editor Sean Holman writes that private power producers employed numerous Liberal insiders to further their development projects. Holman aptly titles his comment From one power source to another.

Bill Tieleman‘s May 5 blog lists reasons why Campbell Liberals should be booted from office. One comment attached to Bill’s entry provides interesting detail of Liberal apparatchiks who fit Holman’s description.

Why have so many BC Liberal insiders moved to the IPP industry where they have dished out $30 billion in contracts for electricity that BC Hydro could produce at a fraction of that?

  • Geoff Plant, former BC Liberal Attorney General, now chair of Renaissance Power.
  • Mark Grant, BC Liberal executive director, resigns December 12, 2008 to join Rupert Peace Power.
  • David Cyr, former Assistant to BC Liberal Minister Mike de Jong, is now a director at Plutonic Power.
  • Robert Poore, recently worked under the Provincial Revenue Minister of the Province of BC, now is a senior director at Plutonic Power.
  • Tom Syer, who has held a variety of senior positions in the BC Government including Gordon Campbell’s Deputy Chief of Staff, is now a director at Plutonic Power.
  • Bill Irwin, after holding key positions in the BC Ministries of Land and Water, and Crown Lands, now is a director at Plutonic Power.
  • Bruce Young, has held several high profile positions with the BC Liberal party and lobbied his own party on behalf of Katabatic Power is listed as a director of Atla Energy.
  • Stephen Kukucha, former senior policy advisor for the BC Ministry of Environment, is now president and CEO of Atla Energy.
  • Paul Taylor, after his work as President and CEO of crown corporation ICBC as well as high level positions in the BC Government, is now President and CEO of Naikun Wind Energy Group.
  • Michael J. O’Conner, former President and CEO of Crown Corporation BC Transit, now holds senior positions at Naikun.
  • Jackie Hamilton, formerly held various BC Government environmental assessment and regulatory management positions, is now a VP at Cloudworks Energy.
  • And last but not least, Bob Herath, former Assistant Regional Water Manager for the BC Ministry of Environment is now with Syntaris Power. Bob Herath signed water licences in 2006-7 that are now owned by the same company he left gov’t for in 2007: Syntaris Power.

I remember the days of misguided youth when I was too involved in party politics. While I was raising funds to subsidize Young Liberals traveling to a national leadership convention, an MP gave me a list of federal contractors who could be counted on for contributions. Contractors doing well through government service were expected to spread cash around when the governing party came calling. Mind you, those were small sums. Real opportunities were always reserved for the favored few.

Well connected Liberals have a long and proud history of maximizing personal opportunities. They know how to make meaningful asset transfers with great discretion. After all, that is the fundamental purpose of an unprincipled political party.

5 replies »

  1. Interesting article Norman. Yes, I found my way over from Harvey’s site and I’ll be back. Where are the NDP ads. regarding this power issue?

    And yes, I’m older and more cynical, but a political junky like you 🙂

    Patrick Bell

    Like

  2. Future generations will curse us when they are paying American companies billions to buy electricity generated in BC’s rivers

    Like

  3. Do you have a list of names, well you do, but a list of names, ages and whether they were BC Young Liberals as well when BC Rail was up for sale? The one wiretap evidence that has been introduced into the Pre-trial sessions by the Defense and has only been lately that it has been raised again, earlier this month over at Bill Tieleman's blog on A to Z :

    “That in an intercepted call on Oct. 22, 2003, Basi and Reichert first talk about Bob Virk and then Basi asks: “Is there a question about a cheque for the Camosun guys? Reichert says Dave has the first one.””

    (Kelly) Reichert is talking to (Dave) Basi, so why is Kelly telling Dave that “Dave” has the first one?

    They're referring to another Dave, someone involved with the Camosun Guys, such as the college where there is a BC Young Liberal group.

    Like

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