Construction camp for Toba Inlet run-of-river power project on B.C. coast east of Campbell River, 2009. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C.’s private power vision shows up as big charge to hydro bills

NDP tracks B.C. Liberal donations while long-term contracts signed

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s rush into private electricity projects has turned into a high-voltage political battle over their long-term impact on B.C. Hydro rates.

As the NDP government gets ready to announce electricity rate increases to cover the $10 billion Site C dam and $5.5 billion in deferred debt from utility operations that kept rates artificially low during the B.C. Liberal years, it has issued a new report on the impact of run-of-river and other private power deals that Campbell’s government launched in 2002.

Those contracts with mainly run-of-river hydro, wind and biomass power producers, are expected to cost the utility $16 billion over the next 20 years, according to a new report commissioned by the government from former B.C. Treasury Board director Ken Davidson. Entitled “Zapped,” the report calculates the extent of what the opposition NDP said at the time, that B.C. Hydro was paying over market price for intermittent power that is generated mostly in spring when B.C.’s large dams are at full capacity.

RELATED: NDP’s Horgan reluctantly proceeds with Site C dam completion

RELATED: In 2011, Andrew Weaver was pushing for run-of-river power

Campbell’s 2002 B.C. Energy Plan set the direction, ordering B.C. Hydro to expand its electricity supply through long-term purchase contracts with private suppliers. The plan also required the utility to become self-sufficient in energy, rather than buying surplus power on the North American grid that may be from fossil fuel sources.

As Energy Minister Michelle Mungall prepared to release results of the NDP government’s review of B.C. Hydro performance Thursday, the political battle began with the NDP adding up $3 million in campaign donations collected by the B.C. Liberals from private power producers as their business boomed in B.C.

Campbell’s vision of B.C. as a climate change leader and clean energy exporter to California to replace fossil fuel sources was soon undone by technology and global events.

“Market prices for natural gas, and hence for electricity, remained strong until 2008,” Davidson’s report says. “The financial crash of 2008 reduced demand and prices. Unfortunately, this crash was timed with a major development in the oil and gas industry, which wasn’t fully appreciated until large amounts of new gas appeared in the market: shale gas and oil and hydraulic fracturing.”

B.C.’s private power contracts included biofuel cogeneration at sawmills and pulp mills, wind energy in the Peace region and the biggest player, run-of-river hydro. One of the largest-scale projects was by Plutonic Power on the Homathco River at Toba Inlet on the B.C. coast.

A second, larger phase with multiple river sites at Bute Inlet was cancelled as California and other major energy markets embraced gas-fired power.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Rossland council urges minister to kill Jumbo Glacier Resort project

Mayor writes letter panning ski resort on environmental, legal, and economic grounds

Legend of the book bike

Book fairy hands out books to lucky recipients who spot her

Summer Snack Program helps local kids in need of a good lunch

Summit Youth Centre is giving tasty, nutritious lunches and snacks to Columbia Valley kids.

Bounding into the great outdoors

Playwest Mountain Experience takes hikers into the wilderness.

Fat Man Yoga offers low intimidation workout

“I needed to do more stretching and more flexibility stuff for my fat man body,” said Ryan Karl.

Clean the house, prep for your next trip: Tips to nix the post-vacation blues

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Couple could go to jail for taking 88 lbs. of Italian sand

Pair said they didn’t know it was illegal to take the sand, which is protected as a public good

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft: RCMP

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

VIDEO: RCMP unveil new, state-of-the-art forensics lab

The laboratory is expected to handle thousands of forensic services from across Canada annually

Scheer promises EI tax credit for new parents if Conservatives form government

The government currently taxes employment insurance benefits for new parents

B.C. Speaker tight-lipped about aide’s legislature security tour

B.C. Liberals question Alan Mullen’s drive across Canada, U.S.

Most Read