A comment on my article at The Tyee is repeated here along with some hints about how dollars might have influenced reporting on IPPs by members of the corporate media.
Despite flat electricity demand since 2005, BC Hydro increased dollar value of IPP purchases by 185%, added 17% to its own generating capacity and bumped total assets from 12 to 38 billion dollars and is spending 15+ billion more on capital expenditures…
Electricity ratepayers, mostly residents and small to medium sized businesses, suffer because of failures by politicians and major media. The public was badly informed and that has enabled losses that will ultimately measure in the tens of billions of dollars. This should be British Columbia’s largest ever political scandal but the people responsible for it will never be held to account. On the contrary, the scoundrels have departed or will one day retire in unsullied comfort…
The 40% demand growth over 20 years is a fantasy spun for so long that it is baked into BC Hydro’s DNA. No surprise. Not spending billions of dollars to expand a system with stable demand would leave more than a handful of affluent folks looking for work.
Billions of dollars in the accounts of vested interests instead of the pockets of residents and SMEs. That’s will be the outcome after Clark Liberals and Horgan’s NDP greenlighted Site C, a $12 billion dam, which BC residential and SME consumers do not and will not need.
Political and power industry insiders dictated terms for the original IPP schemes but corporate inertia keeps them alive. BC NDP enjoyed the short-lasting attention paid Ken Davidson’s ZAPPED report since it highlighted BC Liberal incompetence or malfeasance. But, the expose was quickly put into storage. Business continues largely as before. It’s only the public’s money…
Years ago, SFU Professor and private power promoter Mark Jaccard assured us “independent power producers who will lose their shirts — not ours – – if they get it wrong.” In his 2018 retrospective report, government finance expert Ken Davidson concluded that somebody got it wrong but definitely not the independent power producers.
Excepting BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, politicians on both sides of BC’s Legislature are reluctant to discuss natural gas policies. This week, the BC NDP raised gas subsidies. That’s unfortunate because climate change is a critical threat to the world we live in and fossil fuels are a prime cause.
Throughout that time, I couldn’t understand why the obvious insanity of costly private power programs didn’t raise the ire of many citizens. For that, I lay a large part of the blame on radio and Press Gallery pundits. Some had personal interests affecting their points of view and some believed that health of the business coalition party ranked above the public interest.
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 sold less electricity to this province’s residential, commercial and industrial customers in 2018 than in 2005. The total of 50,472 gigawatt hours in 2018 was also a decline from 2017. Despite buying less in 2018 than in 2005, consumers paid BC Hydro 85% more, an extra $2.2 billion.
After the Ken Davidson report to government about BC Hydro’s purchases of private power, David Beers’ wrote, “Somewhere up there Rafe Mair is smacking clouds together to make them thunder: “I told you so!”
In real terms, the BC government’s natural resource revenues in 2018 were 37% of the level in 2001, despite material increases in output.
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.
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.
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.
John Horgan issued a press release that makes so damn much sense, I’m repeating it almost entirely. British Columbia urgently needs an independent and transparent examination of all private power purchase agreements, including those important portions kept secret…
Considering the near endless ink and airtime dedicated to what Liberals called “Glen Clark’s folly,” people should compare the attention paid to a Campbell/Clark program that may have cost the province 15 or 20 times as much.
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.
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.