An extensive private power industry was created by Premier Gordon Campbell and friends early in the 21st century. A government that had little regard for nature opened vast areas of wilderness for construction of generating facilities.
Selling electricity to American customers had been a lucrative business for BC Hydro. Liberals had no desire to have profits wasted on the people of the BC, so the British Columbia Transmission Corporation (BCTC) was created to separate transmission assets from BC Hydro. BCTC was to provide independent power producers (IPPs) direct access to export markets.
However, high electricity prices in western USA were entirely artificial.
Texas Republican Senator Phil Gramm and wife Wendy, an Enron director, had pushed utility deregulation and collected huge sums from Enron for their efforts. Lack of supervision by regulators opened the doors to market manipulation. Enron quickly took advantage, but fraudulent acts contributed to its eventual bankruptcy.
In the early 2000s, wholesale electricity prices reached outrageous levels in western USA. BC Hydro’s trade sales averaged $27,850 per GWh in fiscal years 1995-1999, but in FY 2001 and FY 2002, the number averaged $207,600 per GWh. In 2003, when U.S. markets normalized, BC Hydro’s trade sales averaged less than $20,300 per GWh. BC Hydro was sued for its part in the price fixing fiasco and settlement cost the province around $800 million.
Exporting at 2¢ or 3¢ per KWh would not be profitable for IPPs, so Campbell and his private power patrons stopped to design a new and more rewarding approach.
The new plan called for BC Hydro to be IPP’s exclusive customer. Secret electricity purchase agreements (EPAs) were concluded where BC Hydro was required to pay from 8¢ to 15¢ per KWh. Some EPAs were take or pay, resulting in payment of millions for power not delivered to the utility.
Profitability was assured for every IPP. The deals had inflation escalators, which have been particularly lucrative in 2022 for facilities that made their capital expenditures many years ago.
Private power deals were extraordinarily bad for citizens of British Columbia. EPA’s have been as long as 60 years. Secure cash flows guaranteed that most initial developers flipped the operations for immediate profits. Some contracts have been flipped repeatedly.
As an example, Renewable Power Corporation (“RPC”) was involved in building Tyson Creek Hydroelectric Project about 40 kms north of Sechelt. In 2015, RPC facilities were acquired by Alberta based BluEarth Renewables, which was backed by an Ontario pension fund. BluEarth was acquired by DIF Capital Partners in 2019. DIF is headquartered in The Netherlands.
Mark Hume wrote about Tyson Creek, using documents uncovered by the late Gwen Barlee. We learned the province was unable or unwilling (probably both) to exercise control of the project. Government had a desire to privatize public dollars and scientists were not allowed to stand in the way.
Instead of circulating within the province, IPP payments are now exported to enrich private foreign investors about whom we know nothing.
Scenarios like this have been repeated often. BC residents are paying billions of dollars to foreign controlled corporations for electricity that is created and consumed in British Columbia.
I wrote about Tyson Creek more than a decade ago. Recent information has emerged that demonstrates subterfuge played a part in early operations of the facility. Stay tuned, it won’t be reported by corporate media.
Categories: Independent Power Producers (IPP)