The Site C dam on the Peace River is one of the projects exempted from B.C. Utilities Commission review by the B.C. government.

The Site C dam on the Peace River is one of the projects exempted from B.C. Utilities Commission review by the B.C. government.

B.C. to restore utilities commission authority

NDP says it's no coincidence that BC Hydro rates are to be kept under political control until after the 2017 election

The B.C. government has promised to restore the B.C. Utilities Commission’s independent role in setting electricity rates and add more full-time commissioners to help them do it.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett released an independent review of the commission Wednesday, and said the government intends to implement all 35 recommendations. Authority over setting BC Hydro rates for commercial and residential customers won’t be restored until 2017, after Bennett and Premier Christy Clark stepped in to cap rate increases in 2013.

The review comes after the government exempted big-ticket projects from BCUC review, including the Site C dam on the Peace River, the wireless electricity meter system and a new transmission line to northwest B.C. that ran $300 million over the original budget.

Bennett announced the government directive on BC Hydro rates after the 2013 election, with a 10-year plan that increases rates 28 per cent over five years. He acknowledged at the time that rate increases were being kept low using a “rate smoothing” account that defers more than $1 billion of the utility’s debt.

BC Hydro rates are to increase six per cent this year under the province’s directive, and then be capped at four per cent for two years after that..

“After the first five years of the 10-year plan they [BCUC] will be back in charge of setting rates,” Bennett said Thursday.

NDP energy critic Adrian Dix said the B.C. Liberal government has been overruling and sidelining the BCUC since 2003 when it directed BC Hydro to buy power from private producers. He said its political intervention on rising BC Hydro rates is designed to continue holding down rate increases until after the 2017 election.

Dix said it’s also no coincidence that Bennett received the independent review in November and held onto it until after the government had announced its decision to proceed with construction of the Site C dam.

The review panel and the regulated utilities agreed that the government has authority to set provincial energy policy and direct the BCUC on specific issues. But the report adds that the government should define those policies well in advance and “then leave the commission to act independently within its mandate.”

 

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

Just Posted

Bill Almond’s observatory in its new home on a Saanich lakeside. (Submitted/Cameron Burton)
Colwood stargazing dome makes a move to Saanich

The backyard structure finds a new home after 30 years

Chris Grzywacz, development agent for cannabis supplier Seed and Stone’s, holds products from the new Songhees Cannabis S + S store on April 20. (Jake Romphf/ News Staff)
First cannabis store opens on Songhees Nation, creates economic opportunity says chief

The Songhees Cannabis S + S had a soft launch at its 1502 Admirals Road location on April 20

A convicted sex offender, whose crimes included offences against children, was arrested at Gonzales Beach after the man was spotted by an off-duty officer. (Black Press Media file photo)
Convicted sex offender arrested at Gonzales Beach

After committing crimes involving children, offender barred from public beaches, being in proximity to kids

VicPD asks anyone who sees Daniel Shumka, or with information on his whereabouts to call 250-995-7654 or report anonymously through Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. (Courtesy VicPD)
Victoria police seek man wanted on drug trafficking charges

Daniel Shumka, 50, is 6’1” and about 195 pounds with short brown hair and brown eyes

Victoria police arrested three men following a double stabbing April 19. The two victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Three arrested after double stabbing in Victoria

Two people sent to hospital after being stabbed, hit with bear spray

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read