BC Hydro

Rising prices have only just begun

During the seventies and eighties, inflation was substantial in Canada. However, BC Hydro was not a major contributor to the rising cost of living.

In the 20 years to 2006, BC Hydro’s charge per kilowatt-hour to residential consumers increased at 1/3 the rate of inflation.

However, when Gordon Campbell’s neoliberal friends decided BC’s iconic utility was a ripe target for privatizing public wealth, things changed dramatically.

In the 10 years to 2016, BC Hydro’s charge per kilowatt-hour to residential consumers increased at 5x the rate of inflation.

rate changes vs inflation

The first and largest contributor to financial pressure on BC Hydro was the Liberal decision to reward private producers with long-term, price escalating supply contracts. The prices allowed had no relationship to market value and steadily growing purchases were not dependent on rising demand.

This $60+ billion boondoggle was followed by commitments for billions of dollars to be spent delivering power to remote regions where the primary beneficiary was Liberal donor and bagman Murray Edwards, billionaire shareholder of Imperial Metals, operator of the Mount Polley and Red Chris mines.

The Site C dam is a continuation of the financial raid on BC Hydro. With flat demand for electricity over the last dozen years and the availability of cheaper alternative sources, another Peace River dam is of value only to contractors who aim to fill their private pockets with public funds.

Will prices continue to rise steeply? Of course.

BC Hydro has engaged in accounting trickery to pretend it remains solvent. But, with more than $7 billion in deferred costs and billions more in unproductive assets like Site C and the Northwest Transmission Line, ratepayers face massive price increases to restore stability.

Alternatively, the province must return the billions that have been stripped from BC Hydro in the form of dividends and water rentals.

Either way, BC residents will be experiencing severe pain from the years of mismanagement at BC Hydro.

10 replies »

  1. This deficit at B.C. Hydro may well have to be bailed out by the provincial government. if that has to be done you can expect all those msm promoters of the B.C. Lieberals to blame the NDP.

    People kept voting for the B.C. Lieberals so now they get to pay for that luxury. we can only hope that when electrical rates go up, they will not cutting people’s electricity off. Many simply won’t be able to afford the new higher costs. The province may have to look at subsidies for low income earners and those on assistance or we may become a province which is reverting to candles and house fires.


  2. I ask the question again – does the welfare mom with 4 kids who went to jail for cheating on her welfare realize that her problem was that she just didn’t steal enough?


  3. You make a generic comment about the availability of cheaper alternatives as if it were the truth. The research prepared on the topic shows that there is not a lot of cheap power out there. Rather, all the alternatives are substantially more expensive before including transmission costs.


    • Simply not true and I know that you know you’re spinning falsehoods. Other jurisdictions are producing clean utility scale power from various sources at prices far below those expected at Site C, without environmental and cultural destruction that will occur in the Peace River Valley.

      Additionally, small scale power generation, whether solar, wind, geothermal or other, produced near places of consumption, eliminates the need for long and expensive transmission lines. Even lower cost alternatives to Site C are returning Columbia River Canadian Entitlement (larger capacity than Site C and now being sold at 2.6 a KWh) and conservation through efficiency, which is the least cost way of going forward.

      Blair King, you’ve shown repeatedly that you care nothing for facts and have taken on the role of Site C promoter. I hope you’re well rewarded because someday, your small children will pay a price for the province you helped ruin.


      • Don’t forget BC is awash in cheap nat. gas. Gas-fired power plants are the ideal interim measure for delivering reliable dispatchable power that’s affordable until the price of renewables comes down. Calgary recently built an efficient combined-cycle gas-turbine power plant for just $1.4 billion and it produces more energy/yr than Site C. And the annual gas cost of a few hundred million is trivial compared to the interest on a $9 billion loan.

        The Liberals claim that Hydro can’t rely on the Columbia River treaty power because the US may not be able to deliver during winter peaks. But a standby Burrard Thermal would address that. For a few hundred million Burrard could be refurbished as a standby plant. Even if Burrard ran at full output year-round its GHG emissions would be less than from a single gas-fired LNG export terminal, which the Liberals called world-class and clean. Nat. gas burned domestically is cleaner than LNG as it doesn’t have to be liquefied first.


    • People paid to promote Site C admit it is uneconomic in the mid to short term but say that it should make sense over the long term. However, the same people ignore the rapidly declining cost of alternative energy sources.

      arstechnica,com reported in April: “power purchase agreement prices for solar power have dropped by about 75 percent over the last seven years alone, leaving them at about $50 per megawatt-hour in the US. Globally, many sites are seeing prices approach $30/MW-hour. (Recently, an 800 MW solar facility agreed to supply power in Dubai at 2.9¢ per KWh.)

      Greentech Media wrote in 2016: “In many parts of the world, wind power is cheap. But wind power will likely get even cheaper, according to new research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published in Nature Energy, with contributions from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, University of Massachusetts, and participants in the International Energy Agency Wind Technology Collaboration Program.

      Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) for the US Department of Energy, the Wind Technologies Market Report confirmed several existing conclusions made in recent months about the US wind industry in 2015, and revealed several more. Prime among these conclusions is confirmation that wind prices are at an all time low, with newly built wind projects in the US averaging around 2¢/kWh thanks to technology advancements and cost reductions across the wind industry.

      Blair King, take your misinformation campaign elsewhere.


  4. Blair 8.43 p.m.


    “The research prepared on the topic shows that there is not a lot of cheap power out there. Rather, all the alternatives are substantially more expensive before including transmission costs”

    Research prepared by who?

    The Spanish don’t seem to think so.


    Nor the Danes.


    Danish offfshore wind power


    Lots more examples of other countries that have researched the cost effectiveness of alternatives, just have to do some research.


  5. We need all the ideas we can get showing up at the BCUC Hearing into Site C. We have a lot of options but we can’t afford any more of this. We have to consider all the issues, all the costs, all the impacts, and find the combination that produces the least damage.

    One of the things the Liberals did was reduce water rentals, the reductions were to make one more minor but apparently significant enough lowering of rates that they expected usage would increase or at least not drop further. The trouble I have with that is that the segment of the water rentals they removed were supposed to in some way provide to the Province some part of the compensation necessary to mitigate the loss of our river valleys to flooding.

    If that isn’t ironic in light of the phoney dividend payments what is.


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