BC Hydro

BC Hydro encore

At my Tyee article BC Hydro: From Public Interest to Private Profits, a couple of commenters associated with BC Hydro and the Liberal Party dispute statistics. However, the numbers I use are from BC Hydro reports. My files contain financial and operating statistics dating back to 1975.

There are billions of dollars at stake here so it was no surprise that political operatives aim to undermine confidence in numbers they don’t control.

The Legislative Library has electronic versions of BC Hydro Annual Reports for fiscal years 1997 and 1999 to 2016. I approached the utility a number of times, trying to get copies from prior years. They didn’t refuse; they just didn’t deliver. It was the same when I asked to interview a spokesperson for The Tyee. BC Hydro didn’t reuse directly; they acknowledge the requests and did nothing.

When I asked for old Annual Reports, BC Hydro said they couldn’t send electronic copies by email but did promise twice to mail optical disks containing the requested files. The first disk arrived empty; the second had corrupt files. Apparently, they had no real intention of assisting so I went to Vancouver’s Main Library.

Librarians happily gathered materials from storage archives and I took photocopies and created spreadsheets that allow me to compare and track data over 40 years.

Consumption numbers – or electricity sales – reported in my work are taken from the utility’s official Annual and Quarterly Reports. BC Hydro’s dollar amounts are audited each year by external accountants and the reports provide best evidence available. While the numbers of gigawatt hours sold to consumers are not audited directly, they have to tie into sales revenues and production reports. Gross manipulations would be apparent.

The charts below recapitulate simple but fundamental information. Most important is the record of consumption by residential, commercial and industrial consumers. It’s been flat for a dozen years. That seems surprising until we consider improved efficiency of motors and lighting, as well as elimination of heavy industries and people choosing to use less power because of high prices.


Secondly, we have to consider that once profitable export markets have disappeared. U.S. energy consumption has also been flat for more than a decade but the nation, particularly in the west, has been adding new power sources, particularly solar and wind.

Despite no market growth, BC Hydro is buying increasing amounts of private power at prices that escalated 50% in 12 years.


Amazingly, without greater domestic consumption and with more private power entering BC’s grid – and less power being traded outside the province – BC Hydro has been adding capacity to its production and distribution systems.

Assets in 2016 are 250% of what they were in 2005 but they are still growing. Based on current commitments, the total will be around $45 billion with completion of the Site C dam. Of course, asset growth is fueled by new debt and that means higher interest payments and elevated risk from rising interest rates.





Private power producers are pocketing billions of dollars above the free market value of their product. Foreign contractors and suppliers extract billions for adding unneeded capacity. A handful of favoured mining companies get power without payment while other heavy industries buy it below average cost with subsidies not tested for jobs produced.

Provincial government policies create corporate winners and one affluent political party but there are millions of losers. They are the citizens who work and live in BC and the small and medium-sized enterprises that are the engines of our economy. If we are not among the wealthy beneficiaries of BC Liberal energy policy, we share the financial burden of BC Hydro’s destruction.

The question to consider is why this simple, truthful information is brought to you by a blogger and not by any of the hundreds employed in corporate media and not by the watchdogs in the Finance Ministry or the Auditor General of British Columbia. Those public officials are charged with ensuring the province “is achieving its objectives effectively, economically and efficiently.” In other words, the best value for money.

Above all, we must ask BC Liberal MLAs why they are letting this happen. Do they lack nerve?

Or, is it a lack of principle and a tolerance for larceny?


From the title page of Ira Basen’s Spin Cycles, a 6-part series for CBC Radio:

Shocking as it may sound, sometimes politicians and leaders have their best interests at heart, and not our own.

It’s comforting for voters to blame others for situations that are so obviously wrong. But a single panel by Walt Kelly provided a simple truth:pogo

In 1994, BC Hydro said BC demand for electricity would grow 52% by 2004. It grew 18%.

In 2005, BC Hydro said demand would grow 20% by 2016. It grew 0%

In 2011, BC Hydro said demand would grow 20% in the following five years. It grew less than 1%.

In 2012, BC Hydro said demand would grow 9% in the following four years. It dropped by 1%.

Categories: BC Hydro

15 replies »

  1. Thanks Norm. Wouldn’t this information create a Liberal nightmare if it was leaked to the general public! Especially with an election coming up in less than eight months. Go for it, NDP!


  2. On July 24, 2014 Bill Bennett and Jessica McDonald announced a subsidized energy efficiency program for the pulp and paper industry. The accompanying press release contained these statements:

    “The demand for electricity in British Columbia is expected to grow by 40% over the next 20 years. Investing in energy efficiency is a key component of BC Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan target to meet 78% of this new demand through conservation, which is more cost-effective than acquiring new sources of power generation.”

    “For every $1 BC Hydro invests in Power Smart programs for industrial customers, it saves about $3 in generating costs.”

    “The new program adds to the $1.6 billion that BC Hydro will spend on Power Smart initiatives as part of the 10 Year Plan.”

    The new program was estimated at $100 million, so added to the existing BC Hydro is apparently going to save $5.1 billion on generating costs by 2023.

    But wait. BC Hydro’s January 2013 Environmental Impact Statement on the Site C dam contained this proviso regarding conservation measures (DSM):

    “…BC Hydro’s DSM target is aggressive and entails delivery risk because it relies on customer behaviour changes which are more challenging in a low rate environment like British Columbia. This may cause the projected energy and capacity savings from the DSM target to fall short of target within the specified time frame.”

    Oh yes. Especially if the DSM programs are defunded and not quite as aggressive as advertised.

    So when they’re trying to make it look like they’re responsible stewards of the public purse at a press conference they are conservationists. But when trying to sell the need for a dam Christy wants, that angle isn’t expedient.

    Here are some other provisos in the impact statement:

    “All new resources have some degree of delivery risk. There is the risk that contracted IPPs will not come into service. There is also the risk that existing Energy Purchase Agreements with IPPs will not be renewed upon expiry.”

    There’s also the risk that pigs will fly. Supersonically.


  3. Somebody should tell the BC Liberals new short pants brigade of party communication advisors and their career taxpayer paid PAB counterparts that this commercial is make-believe. It is not meant to be a political action plan.


  4. It is the same with TransLink.


    Yet, for all of TransLink’s hype and hoopla how good the organization is or their transit planning, no one has copied the TransLink model, nor has anyone copied our exclusive use of light-metro, especially a proprietary light metro for regional transit.

    The proprietary ALRT/ART light metro has been on the market now since the late 1970’s, yet only 7 such systems have been built of which (1) (Detroit) is a single track loop demonstration line; (1) (Kuala lumpur) was not allowed to compete against LRT or the already operating light metro; (1) (Korea) servcies a theme park and is limited to single car operation; (2) (Vancouver and Toronto) were forced upon the operating authority by senior governments; (2) (JFK and Beijing) were built after a private sale to service airports and, partly funded by the Canadian government.

    Not one has been sold in the past decade..

    The problem that ails BC Hydro is endemic in BC and an be traced back to simple government making poor decisions that benefit their backers and supporters.

    With proprietary SkyTrain, SNC Lavalin (Gywn Morgan and crew), which hold the engineering patents benefit greatly when SkyTrain is built.

    The BC Liberals have so perverted this province into a gold mine for friends and insiders, that I am afraid we have passed the point of no return as the province will devolve to a 3rd rate banana republic.


  5. BC Hydro has issued outrageous demand estimates for years. If an organization makes small forecasting errors – sometimes too high, sometimes too low – we can blame inherent uncertainties. But, when they are wildly overestimating, repeatedly and consistently, you know it is purposeful.

    In 1994, BC Hydro forecast that domestic demand would increase 52% by 2004.

    The growth was less than 19% and since then, it has been negligible. They know that but continue putting out fantastic demand estimates because they pay no price for dishonesty.

    Because they have been consistently wrong, we cannot trust any forecasts made by BC Hydro. They have demonstrated they cannot be believed.


  6. According to a writer for The Guardian, we have entered the era of “post-truth” politics, marking the Brexit vote as the first major vote in this new frontier. Presumably, BC politics don’t count as major.

    “It was hardly the first time” writes Katharine Viner, “that politicians had failed to deliver what they promised, but it might have been the first time they admitted on the morning after victory that the promises had been false all along. This was the first major vote in the era of post-truth politics: the listless remain campaign attempted to fight fantasy with facts, but quickly found that the currency of fact had been badly debased.”

    I continue to applaud you, Norm, for sifting through the noise and getting us as close to the truth as we can get without possessing the “power ring.”

    As a group, we should all be spreading the word, helping make our electorate more knowledgeable and our leaders more honest.



  7. Thanks Norm, Once again you’re doing a service for all British Columbians that should be appreciated – not deflected with spin and hyperbole like the stuff you were subjected to in the comments on your Tyee piece. That character has, as long as I’ve been watching (since late 2005) adopted at least 20 different aliases or personas. He specializes in personalized insults and is, without a doubt, someone with a very sharp axe to grind. Please don’t let his childishness get to you. Why the Tyee permits him to continue posting there is a mystery. All the best.


    • Thanks. The Tyee presents valuable reporting and commentary but I’ve sometimes been bothered by the style of comments on different articles. One can fault comments at many sites and Internet journalists have struggled to maintain both open access and civil dialogue.

      Readers may add much to a writer’s work by challenging assertions or extending the work into new areas. Just as when you sit in a room with friends for conversation, the exchanges should be enjoyable and allow everyone to gain information and understanding.

      However, when commenters hide behind anonymity, they can claim anything as fact and never be accountable. (I suppose some of them are accountable to the spin masters that pay them.) Worthwhile discussions on the Internet are often hijacked by a very few contributors who are either inane or malevolent. Sometimes, they’re both. Unfortunate.


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