Category: BC Hydro

The prosecution rests

Since 2006, BC Hydro added $20 billion to its assets and paid an additional $12 billion to independent power producers (IPPs). Yet BC Hydro sold less power to BC’s residential and buiness consumers of electricity in fiscal year 2016-2017 than in fiscal year 2005-2006.

Freedom of disinformation

By any measure, BC Hydro was a success. So successful that pirates made plans to plunder. BC Hydro was a decades old operation that delivered power to British Columbia’s residential and business consumers at prices that ranked among the lowest anywhere. Additionally, a steady flow of money moved from the utility to public treasuries. Since 1989, the crown corporation contributed about $20 billion in dividends, water rentals and grants in lieu of property taxes. With assistance of 21st century Liberal governments, politically connected corporations began treating BC Hydro as a machine for dispensing cash.

Them vs us

Disputing parties in arguments about Site C belong to either of two camps. One is populated by people wanting a share of the billions of dollars to be spent; the other by people who will be forced to pay the huge sums.

The Site C choice

British Columbia Utilities Commission will release its second Site C report on November 1. I expect this will provide further information but not a definitive recommendation. But, of course, the buck stops at John Horgan’s cabinet table. Proceeding with Site C without independent review was a major Liberal blunder. If you are trying to get out of a hole, the first act is to stop digging. The economic and cultural factors say stop Site C now.

Utility woes

The utility loses money on every watt of private power it buys and resells. That is the single largest financial difficulty faced by the company. In the future, it is obliged to buy about $60 billion of electricity from IPPs at prices that will increase with inflation. There is no pressing need for most of the IPP production but the obligation for its purchase cripples BC Hydro.

It will get worse for BC Hydro ratepayers

If you are paying attention to the affairs of BC Hydro, you know the utility in in financial trouble. However, it is electricity consumers that are feeling the pain. Unfortunately, with billions of dollars in phony assets to be written off, a growing power supply that outstrips static demand, payments to private power producers at three times market price and an an export market awash in surplus power, the economic agony dealt by BC Hydro will accelerate.

Looking forward

I assume that logic and fact will prevail and Site C, the most expensive public project in BC history, will be cancelled. It is a costly disaster but BC Hydro ratepayers are burdened even more by payments to independent power producers (IPPs). Much of the almost $100 million a month paid to IPPs leaves the province permanently because majority ownership is domiciled elsewhere. Private producers are paid a multiple of the wholesale value of the electricity they deliver.

Minimum transparency

According to BC’s Budget Transparency and Accountability Act, September 15 was the final day for BC Hydro to make public its quarterly report for the period ended June 30. It was released October 16, which was the first business day following the conclusion of the final technical presentation session regarding Site C before the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC). That meant people appearing at BCUC’s community input hearings in September and early October only had financial information for the utility that was six months out of date…

Blunders, haste and waste

We know the Premier vowed to get Site C dam past the “point of no return” before the May 2017 provincial election. Clark’s Liberals have their own reasons for Site C haste and these eventually will be revealed, perhaps by a postmortem report of an inquiry into the economic destruction of BC Hydro. However, we do know that incautiously pushing a project forward can be costly. Unfortunately, the cost of error will fall not on decision makers but on taxpayers not wealthy enough to hide their income elsewhere.

The Site C money pit

According to Financial Post writer Geoffrey Morgan, BC Hydro sent an October 3 communication to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC). The letter explained why it continues to forecast a surge in electricity demand, despite a dozen years of flat sales to BC consumers…

We are the losers, who are the winners?

Brady Yauch is an economist at the Consumer Policy Institute (CPI), which identifies itself as “an independent think-tank dedicated to achieving lower costs and greater efficiencies for Canadian consumers, particularly in sectors run by government monopolies or those receiving large subsidies.” Mr. Yauch published a powerful examination of mismanagement at utilities in four Canadian provinces. I recommend reading the entire linked document but extracts follow that refer specifically to British Columbia. Regular readers of In-Sights will not be surprised at the stated facts but they’ve been routinely ignored by the province’s most experienced political pundits. The information doesn’t suit their political purposes.