Category: Independent Power Producers (IPP)

Still buying high, selling low

In the current year, BC Hydro expects to export electricity for a price of C$26.50 per megawatt hour. Compare that to the C$91.40/MWh paid independent power producers in the fiscal year ended March, 2018, an amount 28% higher than five years before. Bank of Canada puts inflation at 7% and the average market price barely changed between FY 2013 and FY 2018.

Opprobrium

The analysis by Richard McCandless would be headline material if corporate media were paying attention to the public interest. Burdens imposed on ratepayers measure in the billions and traditional journalists — including the ones who reported for years on far smaller sums lost to fast ferries — report almost no part of the news.

Malfeasance and mismanagement

BC Hydro and the energy ministry employ many people paid salaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. But, these people don’t work to save ratepayers’ money but to convince customers that the 80% rate increase between 2007 and and 2018 was appropriate and the huge increases still to come are necessary. We’re paying one load of operatives to remove money from our pockets and another load to convince us that all is well and we as the victims should be happy. Monday, I watched a CTV news report that featured a citizen complaining about 25¢ being added to his monthly electricity bill for the Customer Crisis Fund. The consumer would really be angry if he stopped to think about the real losses he and others suffer through malfeasance and mismanagement.

Power from the powerful

Politically connected individuals took advantage of citizens’ desire for clean, renewable energy and the Liberals wrote contracts with “lucky firms” that bore no relationship to market prices, guaranteed massive private profits and ensured all financial risks stayed with the public. The contracts in British Columbia last as long as sixty years and allow prices that are as much as 5x market value. In addition, the contracts have annual inflation escalators, a privilege allowed no other commercial segment. All taxpayers get is more power to sell at a loss.

Private power – BC’s unmitigated financial disaster

The Horgan Government indicated it will conduct a review of private power purchases but lifting contract secrecy is the one thing that could be done immediately. It is inconceivable that IPPs could prove damages from publication of contracts since the business terms are widely known throughout the industry. Secrecy only exists to protect politicians and utility executives from being accountable for massive financial mistakes.

Real news reshaped, redefined and side tracked

Because many traditional news sources have been sidetracked by political, commercial and personal interests, acquiring accurate information is now more time-consuming. People with other priorities are vulnerable to lies of commission and lies of omission. Postmedia’s obfuscating political reporters are experienced practitioners of new style journalism.

Shilling for dollars

I made reference to BC Legislative Press Gallery members producing commissioned articles. These are public relations pieces intended to serve particular needs of government or entities doing business with government. It is the kind of output that will ultimately be replaced by automated journalism. Mike Smyth’s recent Province column provides an example… Were Smyth not shilling for private producers, he could be a champion of reducing power consumption through increased energy efficiency. However, there are no industry or environmental groups in BC with sufficient funds to push conservation as a serious alternative to generating more power, whether by hydro, wind, solar, tidal, geothermal or any other technology.

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.

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.

Rising prices have only just begun

In the 20 years to 2006, BC Hydro’s charge per kilowatt-hour to residential consumers increased at 1/3 the rate of inflation. However, when Gordon Campbell’s neoliberal friends decided BC’s iconic utility was a ripe target for privatizing public wealth, things changed dramatically. In the 10 years to 2016, BC Hydro’s charge per kilowatt-hour to residential consumers increased at 5x the rate of inflation.