BC Hydro

Liberal energy policy, blunder or costly malfeasance?

0 fast ferries 300For years, BC Liberals and media pals gleefully used talking points about fast ferries as evidence that NDP politicians were not to be trusted on matters economic. Liberal operatives even arranged for two PacifiCat ships to go on show in Vancouver’s harbour, providing a daily reminder to many citizens.

Undoubtedly, Liberals believed failure of the BC-built aluminum ferries suited their own political interests. As a result, a relatively low-cost method proposed by Kvaerner Masa Marine for making them suitable for west coast operations was deemed a non-starter by government. After a lengthy display period on the North Vancouver waterfront, Washington Marine — large Liberal supporters — bought the ferries for millions of dollars less than scrap value.

Considering the near endless ink and airtime dedicated to what Liberals called “Glen Clark’s folly,” people should compare the attention paid to a Campbell/Clark program that may have cost the province 15 or 20 times as much.

Of course, I refer to arrangements that favoured independent power producers (IPPs) — many of whom were Liberal friends and insiders — with prices far above market values.

market price

As I’ve written at In-Sights before, Liberals believed there were huge profits to be made by exporting electricity generated in BC. However, they wanted those profits to be earned by the private sector, not by BC Hydro. By coincidence, independent power producers were major Liberal contributors.

In November 2009, BC Liberals remained anxious to reward private power producers. This is demonstrated by a transcript of Gordon Campbell’s speech to an IPP conference:

And I can tell you you’re very, very well-represented by two I think not just strong advocates but really public-spirited and public-minded people, and I want to say a special thank you to Harvey Campbell, my cousin Harvey, and Don McInnes, both of whom have never lost track of the fact that what we’re talking about today is how we accomplish broad public objectives…

I know that you’ve had the opportunity to hear from both Ministers Pennerand Lekstrom today, so I’m going to try and just move us a little bit forward and think about where we want to go and what we’d like to be able to accomplish…

Demonstrating the welfare of IPPs was a priority, Campbell went on to say:

It should be a core objective of ours to be a smart-thinking, smart-delivering, dependable, reliable electricity source for the continent, not just for British Columbia. We can help Alberta meet their challenges. We can help Saskatchewan. We can help Washington, Oregon and California. We can help Wyoming and Wichita, Kansas if we want. But we have to set those goals for ourselves and then we have to execute those goals in a way that makes sense.

… It’s important for us to recognize that as we do that we have to build an independent power sector that has confidence in government and confidence in the direction that we intend to go…

Campbell and his IPP friends had already decided they wanted BC Hydro to absorb business risks imposed by free markets. The public utility was buying all IPP output but it was not paying wholesale prices paid other producers in BC’s traditional electricity trading zone. BC’s private power prices were established through friendly discussions with IPPs and set at levels that guaranteed significant profits to a fortunate few.

This was required because demand in North America had been flat then for four years and the costs of alternative power sources like wind and solar were dropping rapidly. Smart IPP people anticipated a changing marketplace so they wanted long-term contracts from BC Hydro with inflation escalators.

wind

solar

Source for the two charts above.

wind 2

Source

IPP deals allowed many promoters to flip the agreements quickly for large capital gains. Little taxed capital gains.

So that most BC citizens would remain unaware of the scam, Liberals ensured that all IPP deals were secret, unavailable even through freedom of information requests. Total quantities of power purchased and the amounts paid were only available through periodic BC Hydro reports. However, the apparent unit prices paid IPPs are distorted because long-standing agreements with comparatively low prices, such as the one for Kemano power, are lumped together with recent high unit price contracts.

Governments led by Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark allowed over 100 secret IPP agreements that resulted in BC Hydro paying out about $11 billion since 2004. Much of the electricity acquired was resold into western markets for a fraction of cost.

Political leaderes responsible for this massive private power blunder can only be described as thoroughly incompetent, wholly corrupt or both.

Again, this is a situation where corporate media public has failed the public. The only reporting that I could find reflected positively on BC’s private power sector. Some repeated IPP and government assertions without examination. None compared prices paid with market values.

This demonstrates that corporate media puts private and political interests above the public interest. Numerous members of the BC Press Gallery are among the worst culprits.

14 replies »

  1. The power laundry is almost as prolific as the casino laundry, not surprising, unfortunately. Both were ran by the same group.

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  2. Cambridge Analytica … demonstrates that the most corrupt politicians will “ cheat to win”. Their campaigns are based on emotions, lies, fear and secrecy. Look where the likes of Christy Clark, Glenn Clark and Gordon Campbell are now. They are hiding in the shadows with friends and planning their inside-investor schemes.
    Municipal, provincial and federal politicians need to feel the wrath of the angry voting taxpayer.
    Remember Christy’s entourage of photographers and make-believe-news. The “Balanced Budgets” were often reported by the Liberal sponsored/tainted newspapers.
    The public no longer buys these papers and many are going bankrupt. Now, they are asking support from the taxpayers to stay afloat.

    Thankfully, there are newsletters like In-sights, The Tyee, De Smog and Dermid Travis to tell the truth and expose the political corruption.

    Lana Popham Minister of Agriculture (lives in Saanich) must really have trouble sleeping at night with conflicts regarding the ALR at the Site C Dam. Flooding farmland, ancient burial sites, earthquake fault area, Mercury poison behind the reservoir, First Nation betrayal and adding to a $150 Billion BC Hydro deferred debt. All in the name of energy to be sold at a loss for LNG that will change and damage our climate.

    Frank Leonard also lives in Saanich (head of the ALR commission appointed by Christy Clark’s Liberals).

    Example of Hypocrisy: The Municipal Cedar Hill Golf Course is on ALR land (publicly owned /funded by taxpayers) competes with the private enterprise clubs who are now closing due to costs, falling membership and several are facing bankruptcy.
    The intention was to preserve ALR farmland but allow golf courses. Now, the land is too valuable … they will not permit affordable housing or for temporary farm workers and these golf courses will never be used to produce food for human consumption.

    Neighbours love living around a golf course as the real estate value only increases: Great view, quiet, no neighbours, green space, little noise or traffic, no farm odours.

    Conclusion: The Site C Dam should become a small recreational Lake for drinking water, food crops for human consumption, irrigation and increasing the taxes for the growing real estate value.
    Site C should not be used to increase Hydro assets, or money losing LNG/electricity enhancing the wealth of foreign nations, multinational corporate investors and BC politicians.

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  3. So can we expect to see or hear this on the Globul CKNeww, Posmedia conglomerates?
    Hhah snark. I used to have faith in Jon and Simi but day by day its faded away. Can you imagine Rafe on the airwaves with this information? He would have torn these fools asunder. Im a news junkie and i used to listen to CKNW from Frosty Rafe Bill until the old time radio shows. Ignorance must truly be bliss because 50% of the voting public are truly ignorant of the crimes against our province by the Neo-Liberal Party of BC.

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  4. Speaking of advances in solar energy: I read an article on the Upper Nicola Band and its plan to build a solar farm that could power up to 5,000 homes. Cost: $30 million.
    “Hey,” I thought to myself. “Site C is planned to power 450,000 homes… at a likely cost of $10+ billion. How do the two compare?”
    My calculator says you’d need 90 such solar farms to equal the output of Site C (5,000 homes X 90.)
    And $30 million x 90 = $2.7 billion.
    For roughly $11 billion, you could build 4x the output of Site C, through solar farms. I know, such solar farms take up a lot of land area and would be seen as a scourge on many landscapes — but where large flat-roofed buildings such as warehouses, malls, apartments and schools exist, the land has already been given over to development.
    Rooftop solar in the Lower Mainland should be widely encouraged by the government.
    Here’s the CBC article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/solar-farm-merritt-upper-nicola-1.4583370

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    • Psosp, yes, it would be useful to know the square miles needed for Site C’s reservoir — compared to the area needed for a solar farm of equal output.

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  5. The Powerex “portfolio of resources is second to none”. So why are they losing our money on sales of IPP power?

    http://www2.powerex.com/AboutUs.aspx

    “In our early years, Powerex’ trade activity centered on the sale of surplus energy from the BC Hydro system. As BC Hydro’s domestic needs grew and its surplus energy decreased, we then had to focus on supply from outside B.C for our trade efforts. Today we have access to a wide portfolio of market resources to support our trade activities and much of the energy we sell is energy we purchase from the marketplace.

    Since the early 2000s, we have also been buying energy to help support BC Hydro’s domestic needs. In some recent years, BC Hydro, through Powerex, has been a net importer of electricity for domestic use.

    Our portfolio of resources is second-to-none, and includes:
    • Purchases of energy from a wide variety of energy providers across North America
    • Access to BC Hydro’s world-class, integrated 17 000 megawatt electric system — approximately 12 000 megawatts hydro based
    • The highly reliable Canadian Entitlement power from the Columbia River Treaty – totaling approximately 1 200 megawatts of capacity
    • Purchases of energy from BC independent power producers (IPPs)
    • Substantial transmission positions that enable us to access and move power across markets”

    The Powerex Board is comprised of members of the BC Hydro Board. What could possibly go wrong?

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    • @NVG:
      Thanks. The California Parties sued Powerex and won, but that remedy here would seem pointless, as we would be suing ourselves. I suppose that’s the attitude of these folks; “Go sue yourself!” To which we might reply, “There are civil courts, and criminal courts.”

      Interesting quote from the legendarily competent energy minister Bill Bennett. “We have learned that the U.S. court system can be unpredictable.”

      Unlike the BC Liberal track record learning about the very predictable Canadian court system, of course.

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  6. I’d suggest the press kept/keeps talking about the “fast cats” is because they and their friends didn’t make money on them. Its ever so different than the IPPs because all of those B.C. Lieberal supporters have and will continue to make a fortune.

    of course we might want to remember where Glen Clark is today, heading the Pattison Group, and where el gordo is today, still at the public trough. What B.C. Lieberals do best is take and take and take and ensure their political supporters get as much as they can from the province and the people who live here. The press simply keeps peddling the same amount of b.s because they are owned by the same group of people who support the B.C. Lieberals. When you “own” the press its so much easier to keep your narrative out there.

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