BC Hydro

Real news reshaped, redefined and side tracked

Independent Voter Network declares:

A free press is the watchdog of the people. The media holds the sacred responsibility of alerting the citizenry of actions by governments, elected politicians, corporations and even private citizens. It is the fourth estate…

But now the fourth estate is in crisis. The news media has been reshaped, redefined, and side tracked by commercial interests, biased ownership, the phenomenon of social media, the Internet, and a failure to police itself.

In the article Trump Won Because Voters Are Ignorant, Literally, Foreign Policy magazine says:

Most voters are ignorant or misinformed because the costs to them of acquiring political information greatly exceed the potential benefits. They can afford to indulge silly, false, delusional beliefs — precisely because such beliefs cost them nothing.

Those statements go together.

Because many traditional news sources have been sidetracked by political, commercial and personal interests, acquiring accurate information is now more time-consuming. People with other priorities are vulnerable to lies of commission and lies of omission.

Postmedia’s obfuscating political reporters are experienced practitioners of new style journalism. One example was noted by RossK at The Gazetteer.

Yesterday, Rob Shaw again offered only part of the story. His piece focused on BC Hydro’s announcement that it would sign no new private power contracts while government conducted an operational review of the utility. Shaw reported yesterday’s message was accompanied by news BC Hydro was approving five new IPP contracts.

Reading the Standing Offer Program website, we note the private power acquisition program is merely on hold. Without demand growth, with power available for import at one-third the average amount paid IPPs and with Site C coming on stream in a few years, why is a team still employed to administer new offers of private power?

Importantly, as Curious George noted on Twitter, the whole story of IPPs was not told:

Notice how Shaw reports NOTHING negative about IPPs. Zero facts on how disastrously costly they have been. Why do you think that is?

IPPs, costly?

Indeed.

Necessary?

Doubtful.

Consumption & IPP 640

The steady increase of IPP purchases should trouble everyone, particularly after BC Hydro spent billions upgrading equipment and increased its own generating capacity by 16% since 2005.

production 350Because of private power, with flat demand from BC consumers and soft trade markets, the utility reduced output from its own facilities. This assertion is evidenced by a chart showing the number of gigawatt-hours of electricity produced from each megawatt of BC Hydro capacity.

Production and capacity statistics are taken from the utility’s annual reports. I selected five-year periods for comparison to minimize the effect of unusual water flows in a single year.

Rob Shaw and Postmedia newspapers have never reported this sort of information. Doing so would cast a light on BC Hydro that does not suit political objectives of the newspaper chain, which is controlled by a New York hedge fund.

Vaughn Palmer used his own Postmedia column to absolve BC Liberals of blame for BC Hydro’s IPP mess:

In fairness to the B.C. Liberals, First Nation partnerships were a substantial part of many of the projects undertaken on their watch. But the lingering controversy involves long-term contracts that were locked in at higher prices before a decade-long glut of cheap electricity.

First Nations involvement is fact in a small percentage of IPP projects but the extent of participation is unknown. Some IPP arrangements with indigenous people appear to be more symbolic than substantive, put in place because First Nations engagement encourages public support for projects likely to be unpopular.

IPP deals have always been secret and beneficial owners are not revealed. In addition, ownership of many projects has shifted as early promoters cashed out and large corporations consolidated private power operations.

Palmer says the lingering controversy arises from contracts locked in before a glut of cheap electricity. He leaves the impression that problems with IPP deals were unforeseeable and unavoidable.

But let’s compare the average price paid IPPs with Mid-Columbia wholesale prices, both shown in Canadian dollars.

Mid C vs IPP prices 500

Throughout the period charted, BC Hydro was adding IPP suppliers and the average price paid was rising. It was over $100 per MWh in the final quarter of CY 2017.

Palmer is wrong to suggest there was no possibility of change in BC Hydro private power acquisition policy. This was either faulty analysis or a deliberate attempt to protect BC Liberals from criticism of their disastrous management of a once profitable crown corporation.

Either way, the Postmedia writer failed to serve readers responsibly. Doing so limits public pressure that BC Hydro and the Horgan Government deserve to feel. Regular readers of this site will be aware but, through failures of corporate media, ordinary citizens are intentionally misinformed about a vital topic.

We deserve better. Democracy deserves better.

free press 400

11 replies »

  1. Anyone concerned about an independent Free Press being the protector of freedom and justice for the people should look at Vancouver Island and the case of longtime Duncan Reporter Peter Rusland.

    After David Black, whose aptly named “Black Press” took over the two independent newspapers in Duncan, the Citizen and the Daily, David Black “blacklisted” Rusland because he wrote honest and accurate stories about government and business, big and small.

    Longtime Senior Career Reporter Rusland presently drives a cab in Duncan.

    Now, we are told, Black Press has a policy of “protecting its advertisers” so that no stories critical of the government, BC Hydro or big Victoria Land Developers…

    [EDITED BY IN-SIGHTS FOR LEGAL REASONS]

    Residents throughout the area are in shock… [EDITED]

    What in God’s name is going on in our country?

    Is organized crime now in control of Canada?

    There needs to be Federal Laws enacted to prevent and outlaw monopoly press concentration…

    As Lord Acton said “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Concerned Duncan Citizens.

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  2. As shown at the link below, there was a huge push-through of energy purchase agreements (EPAs) in or around 2010. The biggest was the Forrest Kerr project at Stewart. At 934.9 gW/h it is by far the biggest IPP on the list. (As a reference, Site C is planned to produce 5100 gW/h.)

    When did Palmer’s decade-long glut of cheap electricity begin? Surely (ten years ago) in 2008 or earlier… meaning Hydro should have seen the glut coming before 2010 and put the brakes on any new IPPs — unless there was Campbell-Liberal pressure to keep them going.

    https://www.bchydro.com/content/dam/BCHydro/customer-portal/documents/corporate/independent-power-producers-calls-for-power/independent-power-producers/ipp-supply-list-in-operation.pdf

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    • Thanks Barry. You were quite correct. I was getting a little blurry-eyed after working with a number of large spreadsheets and should have caught those mistakes. They’re corrected now, I think.

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  3. Why are BC Hydro IPP payments per MW so high? Alberta recently got a deal buying wind power for $37/MW.

    Once it’s built I don’t imagine it costs much to operate a run-of-river plant.

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    • I’m not scheduled to make 80, so I’ll take the opportunity now to say again a ‘crazy’ thing: IPPs are just one tactic in a larger strategy to bankrupt public enterprises. (I’ll spare you why I think that is or who is involved.)

      I’ll just add that it’s appalling that this new government hasn’t put a stop to it by now.

      To remind: every single IPP contract should be reviewed and those that parasitize the public enterprise be renegotiated or cancelled (the plaintiffs are free to seek redress in the courts). Every undeveloped ruin-of-river licences should be cancelled immediately and reasonable compensation made for expenses paid—but nothing for claimed ‘lost opportunity’ (you can’t call a lost opportunity to breach the public trust compensatable). Every single operative still on the BC Hydro executive that was involved in IPPs or Site-C should be fired immediately. Finally, Site-C should be at least suspended, if not terminated.

      A massive, massive breach of public trust is being perpetrated; the government should mind it doesn’t become a defendant by allowing it to continue when it has the power to stop it.

      There, 80 isn’t so bad after all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree the Horgan Government is timid in dealing with the IPP situation. This amazing boondoggle has already cost ratepayers billions of dollars and should be altered immediately.

        I fear NDP politicians have being bridled and misled by senior civil servants and top management of BC Hydro. Many giving advice to the minister and cabinet were architects of the policies that need change. They won’t admit the public trust was broken because that would indict themselves and close colleagues.

        My preference would be to have a full inquiry led by an independent official with powers like those provided to the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC.

        However, we should realize that some IPP projects are worthwhile, if they serve local markets, particularly if they do in fact replace diesel generated electricity. However, those should be owned and operated by people in or near the communities served. I believe IPP founders should be prohibited from flipping projects and that any material changes in ownership should be approved by BC Hydro.

        Above all else, and something required immediately, Government should lift the veil of secrecy that covers IPP contracts. If no more contracts are to be issued, there is no competition between one supplier and another and no reason to keep existing agreements confidential. Presumably the contracts dictate secrecy so Government would have to legislate that change. IPP operators would be hard pressed to prove damages in court.

        Ending secrecy would allow journalists and independent investigators to question all arrangements in public. I suspect some deals would be acceptable and some would be outrageous.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s not just BC Hydro that gets the sweetheart treatment. The stories of fraud and abuse of authority featured in these two blogs rarely surface in the media: http://elderrights.org and http://elderadvocates.ca I guess it’s no wonder, since the stories expose horrific wrong-doing by agencies, authorities and corporate entities that are also big customers of media advertising.

    Mainstream media still plays a big role in shaping what the public sees, hears and knows, despite social media and Google. When mainstream media favours special interests or suppresses information, we are on our own in the face of corruption of our societal institutions. Left unchecked, this inevitably leads to rampant abuse of citizens which, as reported in the above blogs, is already happening.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. The ball is in the media’s court, but we members of the public can do our bit by making our concerns known to our elected officials — preferably in writing — or go online to express our concerns about shoddy media and/or our support for bloggers like Norm and others, as well as the rare media outlets who genuinely strive to act in the public’s best interests.

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  5. It would appear that, for the good Mr. Palmer at least, it always important to be ‘fair’ to the BC Liberals when commenting on their past policies that are currently costing the people of British Columbia billions of their own dollars (and will cost them tens of billions in the future.

    (and thanks for the link Norm – but it was really Hugh that first pointed out Mr. Shaw’s penchant for partaking in serial bouts of obfuscatory omissioneering in his writing)

    .

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  6. The BC Auditor General has recently criticized the BC Clean Energy Act. The CE act, written by the IPP industry, is a huge benefit for the IPP industry. Don’t amend it, throw it out.

    Liked by 1 person

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