Updated from June 2016.
In an earlier article, I made reference to BC Legislative Press Gallery members producing commissioned articles. These are public relations pieces intended to serve particular needs of government or entities doing business with government. It is the kind of output that will ultimately be replaced by automated journalism.
Mike Smyth’s June 2016 column in The Province provides an example
It was an exciting news story that jumped off front pages less than three years ago: a massive new wind farm to be built on Vancouver Island that would generate enough electricity to power 75,000 homes.
The $750-million project was great news for taxpayers because it wouldn’t cost the public a penny…
Wow, what a deal. Wouldn’t cost the public a penny… unless they are residents of British Columbia who consume electricity or who are taxpayers guaranteeing profitable operations of private power projects through inflation-protected, non-market purchase contracts that last as long as sixty years.
Smyth, like some of his colleagues, was pumping the tires of private power producers. He moaned when BC Liberals didn’t offer one company guaranteed profits.
“Because we haven’t been able to find a customer, we have placed the project on hold,” confirmed TimberWest spokeswoman Monica Bailey.
…It comes at a time when wind-turbine technology has advanced rapidly, cutting the cost to produce wind power.
…Advances in turbine technology have cut the cost to generate wind power to about five cents per kilowatt-hour — less than half of the energy-unit cost of the Site C dam…
Yes, Michael, now explain that most start-up businesses without customers don’t whine to media or expect the public to bail them out. Explain also that technological change is only one of the reasons why BC Hydro should not be signing above-market-price contracts, with price escalators, for 25, 35, even 60 years.
Oh, you can’t? The private power producers prefer that subject is not raised?
By the way, Michael, if wind power now costs $0.05 per kilowatt-hour, you might want to ask BC Hydro why it was once advertising willingness to pay private producers up to $6.05 per KWh ($605,000 per GWh).
But Jessica McDonald, the president of B.C. Hydro, denies the province is anti-wind.
“We will buy more wind power when we have more demand,” McDonald said.
Demand, Michael, that refers to the amount of power used within British Columbia. You could tell your readers domestic demand has remained flat in the past decade, partly because of technological change. Of course, you might also explain that despite no demand growth, BC Hydro paid $870 million more to independent power producers in 2017 than in 2005, with IPP purchases in the second half of 2017 priced at 205% of the unit average in the same period of 2005.
Smyth is proxy for Independent Power Producers Association of BC, or Clean Energy BC, as they now prefer. The organization wants to supply BC Hydro’s power needs and that requires reducing, not increasing, the public utility’s output. However, BC Hydro is addicted to spending so, while adding contracts for private power, it spent billions adding 16% to its internal generating capacity.
Were Smyth not shilling, he could be a champion of reducing power consumption through increased energy efficiency. However, there are few in BC pushing conservation as a serious alternative to generating more power, whether by hydro, wind, solar, tidal, geothermal or any other technology.
Check out my April 2016 examination of Vaughn Palmer’s work on BC Hydro‘s financial condition. Some might expect it to be objective journalism.
It is not.