March 4, in the BC Legislature, Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA Rick Glumac presented a private members’ motion:
Be it resolved that this House agree that government should no longer direct B.C. Hydro to sign long-term private power contracts that force British Columbians to buy expensive power and sell it at a loss.https://www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/debate-transcripts/41st-parliament/4th-session/20190304am-House-Blues
…Back in 2008, I could see the coming financial disaster when the B.C. Liberals forced B.C. Hydro to buy energy we don’t need for way above market rates to sell at an 80 percent loss.
The truth has finally come out in an independent report, and the scale of the financial disaster is frightening. We’re losing $16.2 billion. Think about that. That’s $4,000 for every household.
…the 2010 Clean Energy Act was passed, which eliminated the role of the BCUC in all future energy purchase agreements with IPP companies and the oversight of many other projects like Site C. Instead, government would approve these plans. The BCUC is an independent regulator. Its role was to protect ratepayers. The B.C. Liberal government did not see any value in this role. They didn’t care how much the energy would cost.
Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean continued:
…even as the problems with IPP contracts became clear, the B.C. Liberal government continued to direct hydro, often against warnings from B.C. Hydro and ministry staff to pursue these contracts.
According to the report: “In interviews, both the ministry and B.C. Hydro advise that government was made aware of the risks inherent in its directives… Government was purposeful when the only option it left B.C. Hydro was to buy that energy from IPPs.”
They were advised by professionals and disregarded that advice, with not an insignificant consequence for British Columbians, especially those living in poverty…
Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley added:
If you dropped down from another planet and looked at how could B.C. provide its energy needs — what assets does it have, what tools does it have, and what challenges does it have? — would you have designed a system where you demanded power be produced at a time when we don’t need it and then purchase it for 80 percent more than it’s worth?
…The only way their private friends could get the capital to build these projects was if this government guaranteed we’d buy the power at four times what it’s worth. That they took to the bank. …It was the next gold rush on our rivers…
North Vancouver MLA Bowinn Ma generously offered credit for part of her awareness of the private power schemes:
It was in 2016 that I sat down with an impressively well-informed former accountant and North Vancouver resident named Norman Farrell at a local Starbucks on Marine Drive. It was my first time meeting him, and as a newcomer to the political scene, I had no idea what to expect. For years, Norm had been doing deep dives into the inner workings of B.C. Hydro and coming up with more and more shocking revelations of the B.C. Liberal government’s management choices of the massive Crown corporation.
Sipping on lattes in the corner of a busy, noisy coffee shop, Norm unloaded years of research on me in a short couple of hours. The story he told was incredible and, yet, his research entirely credible: hundreds of millions of dollars of long-term contracts signed to purchase electrical power from independent, for-profit power producers, known as IPPs, based on electrical demand projections that proved entirely false over and over and over again.
What’s more, the independent power would be available exactly when B.C. Hydro’s public assets would already be awash with inexpensive energy rather than at times when reserves were likely to be low.
He told me of the contracts that locked the province into purchasing power at ever-increasing rates, despite totally stagnant prices for power on the market, with built-in requirements for the province to purchase the energy at enormously inflated prices, whether needed it or not, for decades to come, with no way out.
He told me the public would be paying billions of dollars without so much as an asset to their name at the end of the day.
The release of the Ken Davidson independent report on IPPs on February 13 was, no doubt, a cathartic and vindicating moment for Norm, who had estimated the losses at $800 million a year. The report confirmed he was right on the money. The people of B.C. will pay a staggering $16 billion over 20 years in completely unnecessary costs to private interests for absolutely nothing in return…
Norm Farrell offered some insight to me recently. “After years of writing about the subject, I applaud the new government’s decision to commission and publish the report. Had I been involved, I would probably have pushed for it to be even harsher on the people that developed the private power policy. I am convinced that while the initial purposes had some validity, a malignancy developed, and it allowed schemers to take advantage and score profits that were unearned and undeserved”.
The motion was approved by the House.
Bowinn Ma is correct. I do feel that my work helped raise awareness of this issue. But, I was not alone. Many others warned about negative environmental impacts of private “green” power projects. People like Gwen Barlee, Joe Foy, Damien Gills and, of course, Rafe Mair. There are others too.
People like the In-Sights reader known as “Motorcycle Guy” helped me become better informed. He also worked to educate politicians.
We’ve been on a long path… for me, a little short of ten years.
Throughout that time, I couldn’t understand why the obvious insanity of costly private power programs didn’t raise the ire of many citizens. For that, I lay a large part of the blame on radio and Press Gallery pundits. Some had personal interests affecting their points of view and some believed that health of the business coalition party ranked above the public interest.
I listened to CKNW’s Bill Good interview private power producers at a recent energy conference. Good was a cheerleader determined to broadcast a story that reflected positively on his guests. He helped push the story that BC Hydro has too little financial and intellectual capacity to be an effective power producer and that private companies are best able to ameliorate environmental risks.
Is this the same BC Hydro that operates more than 30 hydroelectric facilities and contributes billions to the public treasury by generating and distributing power throughout 95% of this province? And would that be the same private sector that remediated polluted mining sites and avoided serious pollution by smelters and pulp mills?
When a caller pointed out that BC Hydro is banned from developing new power sources and private projects depend upon advance non-market agreements to purchase expensive power, Mr. Good “didn’t have time for speeches.”
Nor, on April 11, did Sean Leslie and Gordon Campbell have time to answer a caller’s allegation that Campbell associates, former ministerial aides and advisers, left public service to work for private power companies after government approved numerous contracts.
Someone asked me today if there was something BC Hydro could do to amend the situation. My response:
They’re locked into contracts worth over $50 billion, some of which last until 2075. A number of crooked people made fortunes beginning and then flipping contracts. They knew how the system worked and probably covered their tracks very well. Without proving conspiracy to defraud, not much can be done.
One thing Liberals did was to pass a law that prevented oversight or review by the BC Utilities Commission, which existed to regulate these kinds of deals.
In the end, it’s only money the province loses through IPP contracts. Think of how other bad government policies wreck lives. For example, failing to act against money laundering in casinos enabled growth in the drug trade that kills thousands of people each year.
BC Hydro is being defrauded of billions because of dumb and deceitful Liberals. But, it’s not their worst failure.
Think I’m unfair to blame corporate media members for facilitating and promoting the private power rip-offs? Read this linked piece from 2009: