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

Health minister hints that location for new Surrey hospital has been found

Minister Adrian Dix says an announcement can be expected before the end of the year

Fans of ‘Outlander’ TV show make Surrey the site for annual three-day convention

‘Outlandish Vancouver’ planners were first drawn here to meet fantasy-romance novelist Diana Gabaldon

Market Days return Sept. 21

Street festival will once again take over downtown Cloverdale

Man charged in Surrey’s torched-SUV murder case gets bail hearing

Harjot Singh Deo in B.C. Supreme Court this week

VIDEO: Prosecutors to consider charges in human-caused 2017 B.C. wildfire

RCMP forwards results of its investigation into Elephant Hill fire to Crown counsel

Petition to rename park after teen overdose victim to get hearing

With 3,500 signatures so far, organizer is thinking of closing down online campaign

Police investigate after intoxicated teens clash with security at B.C. fair

18-year-old woman arrested and RCMP looking at possible assault in Victoria-area fall fair incident

BC SPCA investigating after three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

Boy overdosed on illicit anti-anxiety drug found on Kelowna classroom floor, RCMP say

Noah Mills, 8, ingested a pink powdery substance off his Kelowna classroom floor

Psychiatric assessment ordered for man accused in Salmon Arm church shooting

Lawyer tells court accused was diagnosed with psychosis hours after his arrest

Winnipeg student, killed in bus crash, remembered as passionate, kind

University of Victoria student Emma Machado, 18, was killed in the bus crash near Bamfield on Friday

B.C. offers early retirement, training fund for forest workers

Communities eligible for $100,000 for permanent closures

B.C. land needed for Trans Mountain pipeline owned by man who died in 1922

Trans Mountain is looking for heirs so it can gain access to 500 square feet of land

Most Read