Looming disasters in BC, ON and LN have one thing in common. They are the work of Liberal government controlled and politically manipulated Crown corporations.
Increasing IPP purchases and flat demand for power obviously means that BC Hydro creates less power to meet demand by its users in BC. However, massive spending means the utility employs more than triple the assets to produce one gigawatt hour of electricity than it did a dozen years ago. This is bad policy not explained by mere incompetence of management. We must conclude that the Liberal Government is directing the public utility, either to cripple it or to deliver billions of dollars to friends and supporters.
Swag is what British Columbia’s Liberal Party is about. Whether it’s cash-for-access, pay-to-play, quango patronage or tried and true scratch-my-back contracting, Liberals are practiced at converting public wealth to private. BC Hydro is an example. The utility paid private power producers over $9 billion between 2003 and 2016. But, that’s only the start.
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.
BC Hydro has been managed to deliver billions of dollars in benefits to independent power producers. Had IPPs been left to sell their product to the same free market that BC Hydro trades into, they would have gained 4.9 billion fewer revenue dollars since 2003.
In a comment at an earlier article, Alison Creekside – a fine blogger you should read regularly – linked to this 2009 video of MLA Corky Evans. He talked about BC Liberals turning loose a private power gold rush but it was one that sluiced only half a billion a year. This year it will be closer to one and a half billion and the contracts BC Hydro has already signed total almost $60 billion. The number continues growing.
The mainstream media, as is to be expected, is largely parroting the government’s cover story and ignoring the real problem: BC Hydro and its ratepayers are in a world of hurt because of 12 years of very deliberate and disastrous BC Liberal Government policies, pushed on the public utility.
In 2001, for each dollar of assets, BC Hydro had 63¢ in electricity sales. In 2016, the number fell to 17¢. BC Hydro sold more electricity to residential, commercial and industrial customers in 2005 than the utility did in 2016. BC Hydro did that with assets worth 40% of today’s value. Shockingly, the company is embarked on a program of capital expenditure that will add about $15 billion to its list of assets. By any measure, the management of BC Hydro has been a colossal failure, incompetence made worse by chicanery and flawed policy objectives.
In the last five years, the delivery of cash to IPPs totaled $4.6 billion. If the established trend continues, the amount will be $8.3 billion in the next five years. Amounts flowing to IPPs and the necessary write-off of more than $6 billion in deferred costs means in the next five years, consumers will pay rates 60% higher than they’ve paid in the last five years. In addition, more than $10 billion dollars is committed to Site C and BC Hydro has been spending over $2 billion a year on capital expenditures. Without profitable new markets – none are anticipated – the 60% price rise for electricity could be 100% in the foreseeable future.
Devastation of many private power installations in BC wilderness involves:
blasting and tunnelling, clearcuts for the penstocks, clearcuts for the power lines to join clusters of powerhouses together, service roads larger than for logging, clusters of permanent powerhouses, diversion of waterfalls, drying of rivers…
Politicians assumed that power demand would grow and prices rise so they readily agreed to BC Hydro purchase contracts that were decades long with annual price escalation tied to inflation. They carelessly assumed the arrangements would be beneficial to all. However, what private industry achieved was guaranteed sales with guaranteed profits. All of the financial risks were carried by the public.
Had IPP’s sold their power for the same price that BC Hydro realized in trade markets, they would have realized:
In FY 2015, $591 million less;
In FY 2016, $782 million less.
The deals will get better for IPPs. BC Hydro’s website now announces that it has contracted for 19,290 GWh from these private producers. That is 35% more than purchases in the just completed fiscal year and follows an established trend.
Comparing CY 2007 to CY 2015, domestic power consumption declined 4%. But, the amount paid IPPs increased $762 million or 167%. According to BC Hydro, the per gigawatt hour price paid IPPs in the quarter ended December 2015 was $91,422. In the same period, the average MidC wholesale price was $44,212 Canadian, well under half the amount paid IPPs in British Columbia.
Locking BC Hydro into decades-long contracts (as much as 60 years) was a colossal mistake that ignored the likelihood of technological change. The cost of utility scale solar and wind power has dropped dramatically in recent years. As a result, BC Hydro will be paying tens of billions of dollars extra to private producers enjoying inflation protected prices far higher than alternative options.
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.