Category: BC Hydro

No effective way of managing private power thieves

The decision to proceed on any run-of-river project should be made after the most stringent environmental assessments and cumulative impact studies that are possible, as well as an assessment of where there may be lower environmental footprint alternatives for producing power. All of the most stringent environmental assessment and forest practice standards that exist should be applied to any clearing of forested land connected with any activity, including run-of-river power projects.

Run of river, or ruin of river?

In the three months ended December 31, 2015, BC Hydro BOUGHT 3,719 GWh from private electricity producers at an average price of $91,422 per GWh (total $340 million). In the same quarter, BC Hydro SOLD 3,493 GWh to heavy industry at an average price of $54,394 per GWh (total $190 million). Liberals claim themselves to be wise managers of public finances.

Crime (still) in progress (a 2010 article repeated)

The applicants do not need money or experience, they simply need political influence with BC Liberals. The energy purchase agreement provided by BC Hydro removes substantially all business risk and the favoured recipients take the project to money brokers who readily fund it because the creditworthiness of British Columbia stands behind each EPA. This would be like you and I buying a house we intend to rent to government through a 40 year lease at double or triple market rates, with payments escalating to protect against inflation, guaranteed by taxpayers of British Columbia….

Back scratching

An old expression says, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” The maxim doesn’t require rewards for scratching be equal and, often, they are not.

According to Elections BC, AltaGas Ltd. and associates contributed a little more than $70,000 to the BC Liberals. It’s been money well spent… At $110,000 per GWh, AltaGas’ revenue from BC Hydro would be worth $143 million in 2016…

Walk more lightly on the earth

…The changeability of the future suggests to us that megaprojects are becoming less of a credible answer. They are a huge capital drain and carry a great deal of financial risk.
…We also know, better than ever before, that no means of generating electricity is environmentally benign. Hydroelectric dams can flood large areas of land and can impact aboriginal people and their lifestyles. Fossil-fuelled generation creates sulphur dioxide, nitric oxide, carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases that impact global warming and deplete the ozone layer…
One even more significant source of “supply,” in one sense of the word, is demand management or energy conservation — and it has dramatically fewer or nil environmental effects.
…demand management is much more than a good deal for the environment. It’s also a great business deal for Hydro’s customers. Furthermore, this is not a bridge or a “quick fix” until the next supply stations can be built…

Liberal hypocrisy

…In broader terms, Holm emphasized, “The land to be flooded by Site C is capable of producing high-yielding fresh fruits and vegetables for over a million people.”

…Much like the Liberal Government did to the BC Utilities Commission – barring the public’s independent energy watchdog from reviewing the economics and need for Site C – it has also stripped the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) of its lawful oversight of the biggest potential land removal in its history.

…Beneath the 15,000-page reports, the political shenanigans with the review process, and all the rhetoric about economic development lies a simple truth: Last year, BC generated about 110% as much electricity as it needed, but produced, at most, 48% of the food it consumed. In other words, while we have plenty of electricity to power our homes and businesses well into the future, the same thing cannot be said about our food security…

IPPs received $672 million above market price in 2015

I’ve been reviewing more than 20 years of BC Hydro records and they show gradual growth in electrical demand until 2005. Subsequently, there has been no demand growth; in 2015, domestic power sales were lower than ten years before. What did grow were Hydro’s purchases of electricity from independent power producers. In calendar year 2006, 5,636 GWh supplied by IPPs cost $368 million (6.5¢/KWh); in 2015, 14,418 GWh cost Hydro $1,217 million (8.4¢/KWh).
A 155% increase in the volume of IPP purchases is alarming by itself given the lack of need for it but the average unit price has been rising steadily. In the 4th quarter of 2015, IPP unit prices were 9.2% higher than the preceding quarter. To accommodate power coming into the system, BC Hydro had to choose between shutting down their own capacity or dumping power in markets outside BC at well below cost…

Reward without risk for worthless surplus power

British Columbia’s government believes less in free enterprise than in assisted activities for approved associates. Entrepreneurs saw potential for a private power generation industry in the province but didn’t want to risk their own money. Instead, they arranged with the Liberal government for the public to accept all risks and guarantee substantial profits to the schemers…

Twitter bits

The final item may present a clue to the current state of British Columbia’s energy market. It’s hard to believe we came to this only through the sheer stupidity of our policy makers.

News from the echo chamber

Columnist Vaughn Palmer reports concerns expressed by Moody’s Investors Service about growing BC Hydro debt. The agency stated the obvious, which is that numerous capital projects are adding billions to the public utility’s debt and higher electricity rates or contributions from government are necessary. Palmer repeats Moody’s judgement that Hydro’s financial metrics “are among the weakest of Canadian provincial utilities.” However, the Vancouver Sun pundit provides an inaccurate explanation of why the situation exists…

Heart of our economy gets ignored

When government is captured by people pursuing fortunes in real estate development and resource exploitation, the interests of all others become secondary. When the bubble bursts, when phantom markets collapse, what remains?

Small and medium‑sized enterprises employ about 2/3 of Canadians employed in manufacturing. Yet government programs typically aim benefits at large multinational corporations. An example in British Columbia is the arrangement allowing large, mostly foreign owned, mining companies to defer payments for electricity for up to two years. Additionally, Government directed BC Hydro to spend about a billion dollars on transmission lines that primarily powers the Red Chris open pit mine of Imperial Metals, which is controlled by Christy Clark’s favourite fundraiser, Murray Edwards. Substantial expenditures are also being made in the Northeast gas fields, even though government revenue from that resource has turned fugitive…

What’s good for the BC Liberals may not be good for BC Hydro

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett announced a five-year, $300 million hydro bill deferment plan for 13 mines owned by six companies.Never mind that B.C. Hydro is already grappling with its own deferral problems to the tune of $5 billion. Make no mistake, there’s a price to pay when B.C. Hydro becomes a political arm of government. The intertwining of self-interests gets complicated, while the interests of ratepayers can take a backseat to political interests. Three of the six companies in Bennett’s deal were highlighted in a December Financial Post article, “Debt risks mount as Canada’s base metal miners sink deep in the hole.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

What’s really wrong is that BC Hydro has been spending billions on new capacity but producing less power. Demand has not grown since 2005 but purchases from IPPs, between FY 2005 and FY 2015, rose 108% from 6,444 GWh to 13,377. The purchasing is up again in 2016, by about 11%. The cost of IPP power was almost $500 million more in FY 2015 than in 2013.

When you’re determined to reward IPP friends but have too much power and no profitable export markets, you shut down your own low-cost operations…