BC Hydro

Electricity has never been cheaper, but…

In 2016, the Toronto National Post published a column that could have been written about British Columbia except Postmedia’s west coast papers are little 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. …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 a few years but it is not a subject the local corporate press is willing to cover. Here, interests of the business coalition party rank higher than 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 and guaranteed massive private profits and ensured all financial risks were carried by the public. The contracts in British Columbia last as long as sixty years and involve prices that are now as much as 5x market value. In addition, the contracts have annual inflation escalators.

Across the continent, demand for power has not grown over the last decade, largely through technological 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 downplaying programs of conservation.

SiteC SEO page 420

John Horgan, the man who should now be Premier, has a plan much different – and more affordable – than the one BC Liberals now pursue. It has four major elements, two of which aim at conservation, two of which aim at new supply:

  1. Retrofit public buildings,
  2. Retrofit homes and businesses,
  3. Maximize existing hydroelectric dams,
  4. Invest in clean energy.

Instead of delivering billions of dollars to a handful of political insiders and friends, PowerBC will ensure financial benefits to citizens and employers.

This is just one of the programs delayed by Premier Clark’s refusal to resign.

(Photo credit: Don Hoffmann, DeSmog Canada)

4 replies »

  1. Hello Norm:
    BC Liberals have a history of making poor energy decisions. They built the Burrard Inlet electricity generating system only to shut it down. Look at the “run of the river” projects as another disaster.
    China will soon be slapping Canada with an import duty for shipping “dirty American coal”, fracked LNG and filthy Alberta crude oil.
    At least China is investing in “green energy” unlike Christy Clark.

    Now, the BC Liberals just have to wake up and invest in a new leader. Site C and LNG are the past …

    The LA Times article this morning: California regulators weigh whether the state needs more power plants.

    Note to Christy: “HUMBLE” … Wake up, smell the fumes and read the newspaper.



  2. We all know the story. In ancient times Cicero wanted Rome to destroy its most serious-and dangerous rival Carthage, and decided to end every speech, no matterwjat it was about with the words “Carthage delenda est” (Carthage must be destroyed) and eventually the Senate got the idea and did just that.

    How about simply “Attorney -general, do your duty – investigate Hydro!!


  3. This morning on CKNW Vaughn Palmer and Simi Sara discussed Site C and the letters generated by all parties yesterday as a result of John Horgan’s letter to Jessica McDonald. Here are a couple of Simi’s statements:

    “There wasn’t a lot of questions about Site C before this…”

    “I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those cases when if and when a new government goes in we’re going to all of a sudden learn a whole lot about this particular project we didn’t know about before and it’s not going to be good things.”

    If my neighbor knew how close she came to inheriting a radio through her front window, she’d probably henceforth view me through a jaundiced eye.

    As for Mr. Palmer’s role (beyond sharing Simi’s historical lack of curiosity regarding Site C), he says the previous BCUC Site C review took two and a half years so there’s no way John Horgan can get it reviewed properly before the fall, by which time it will be too late.

    Seems to me that since the surrounding natural environment and the scope and physics of the project haven’t changed, two questions need to be asked: What conclusion did the BCUC previously reach after a two and a half year review? And what has significantly changed since?

    Six weeks should be sufficient to get those answers.

    Liked by 1 person

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