According to BC’s Budget Transparency and Accountability Act, September 15 was the final day for BC Hydro to make public its quarterly report for the period ended June 30.
It was released October 16, which was the first business day following conclusion of the final technical presentation session regarding Site C before the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC).
That meant people appearing at BCUC’s community input hearings in September and early October only had financial information for the utility that was six months out of date.
Why is this important?
Because BC Hydro spin doctors has been claiming the $9.4 billion dam is needed to address steadily growing demand for electricity in British Columbia.
In winter, BC Hydro staff issued news releases about “unprecedented demand for power” because of cold weather. In summer, they issued a news release headlined, “Soaring temperatures lead to increasing demand for power.”
To casual observers, those unchallenged statements in corporate media seem to justify the costly expansion of BC Hydro’s generating capacity. Yet, analysts examining the crown corporation’s actual power sales know the truth is different than what is echoed by spin doctors and dam building contractors.
The quarterly report that finally appeared after Site C hearings reveals no growth in demand for electricity by consumers in British Columbia. This is an illustration, with the most recent numbers taken partly from the belated BC Hydro quarterly report:
Despite a reduced need for domestic power, BC Hydro’s purchases from independent power producers (IPPs) have been growing steadily.
Readers should ask BC Hydro and Minister Michelle Mungall why the utility is acquiring more private power just to export it for 1/3 of its cost or worse, causing BC Hydro to turn off its own generating capacity because of a surplus. The cost to ratepayers is material. In fact, the better part of a billion dollars a year:
The quantity of private power purchased is rising but so is the unit cost. This occurs because IPPs have inflation protection and have been getting higher prices each year. (Hundreds of thousands of workers and pension recipients in BC have no such guarantee.) Until Gordon Campbell’s friends mounted a raid on profits of BC Hydro, electricity rates in this province were kept down because legacy generating stations had low fixed costs and few variable costs.
For years, citizens have been played for fools by the people in charge at BC Hydro. This was allowed, even encouraged, by BC Liberal Governments and has gone largely unexamined by pundits covering politics for corporate media. They appear to do no original research and instead source material from vested interests who profit from misinformed voters.
I had hoped the new government would take immediate action to bring BC Hydro under control. The NDP removed Christy Clark crony and Liberal campaigner Brad Bennett from his role as Board of Directors’ Chair and replaced him with Ken Peterson, a respected energy executive.
They also fired CEO Jessica McDonald, a long time Liberal apparatchik with little background in utility management, and Jack Weisgerber, a 77-year old best known for leading the failed Reform Party of BC years ago.
However, most of the directors remain in place and the new President and Chief Operating Officer is Chris O’Riley, whose primary job has been directing Site C planning and construction. So, most of the team responsible for BC Hydro’s decline remains in place, ensuring the utility’s organizational inertia continues.
It’s not a prescription for needed change. The road to disaster continues unless the Horgan Government is brave enough to choose a new direction.
Categories: BC Hydro