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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Scarlet fever reported at Victoria elementary school

Parents advised to look for symptoms of ‘strawberry tongue’ and rash

Saanich dog walkers react to potential review of bylaws allowing off-leash dogs on beaches

Focus should have remained on migratory birds, not on dog behaviour, says Cadboro Bay dog walker

No dogs allowed off-leash at Luxton Fairgrounds in Langford

New sign placed by Metchosin Farmers Institute on Wednesday, Feb. 19

North Saanich’s Deep Cove Market up for sale for almost $1.8 million

Long-time owner Rosemary Scott hopes the public will understand her decision

Council approve temporary storage to extend life of Oak Bay Fire Hall

It’s cute, it’s iconic, but the picturesque Oak Bay Fire Hall is… Continue reading

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read