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:
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