Hydro rate increases to be cut back

BC Hydro should reduce its proposed rate increases by half and prune back a corporation that has become overstaffed and micromanaged, according to a review panel appointed by the B.C. government.

BC Hydro CEO Dave Cobb says he can meet the government's cost-cutting targets by eliminating 600 jobs.

BC Hydro CEO Dave Cobb says he can meet the government's cost-cutting targets by eliminating 600 jobs.

VICTORIA – BC Hydro should reduce its proposed rate increases by half and prune back a corporation that has become overstaffed and micromanaged, according to a review panel appointed by the B.C. government.

Energy Minister Rich Coleman said Thursday he accepts the recommendations of a report by the three deputy ministers he appointed in April. They include reducing BC Hydro’s rate application to the eight per cent interim increase already being charged this year, followed by rate hikes of 3.9 per cent in each of the next two years.

The B.C. Utilities Commission must approve any rate increases. The rate proposal currently before the commission is for increases of nearly 10 per cent this year, next year and 2013. With an aggressive reconstruction and expansion of the power grid underway, BC Hydro had been planning to raise rates by about 50 per cent in the next five years.

Rolling back the increases requires BC Hydro to cut costs by $800 million over three years. The review panel estimates that would mean a reduction of up to 1,000 of the corporation’s 6,000 employees.

BC Hydro CEO Dave Cobb said the corporation has already identified 250 positions that can be eliminated, and is working on efficiency measures that will cut another 350 jobs. That should be sufficient to meet the government’s target of easing the impact of hydro bills on B.C. ratepayers, Cobb said.

NDP energy critic John Horgan focused on the panel’s recommendation that the government rethink its 2016 deadline for BC Hydro to become self-sufficient in electricity. That target was imposed by former premier Gordon Campbell to spawn a costly private power industry, and it should be scrapped altogether, Horgan said.

The review panel found that BC Hydro’s staff grew by 41 per cent between 2006 and 2010. That was before it reabsorbed BC Transmission Corp., spun off as a separate entity in 2002. BC Hydro currently employs 650 engineers, which the panel noted is six times the number working for the transportation ministry, administering a construction program of about the same size.

Coleman and Cobb stressed that BC Hydro would not compromise safety or reliability to achieve the savings. Deferred projects would be things like building upgrades, while major dam refits and preparation for the Site C dam on the Peace River will continue.

Coleman said the transportation ministry used to engineer each new bridge down to the last bolt before calling for bids to construct it. Now it sets performance and cost benchmarks and lets private sector bidders find the most efficient way to meet them. He said BC Hydro needs to do the same.

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

Just Posted

A rock fall closes Finlayson Arm Road and West Shore Parkway on Friday (March 5) afternoon. (Twitter/BC Transportation)
Malahat closed due to rockfall

Section of Trans-Canada Highway was scheduled for intermittent closures today for rock scaling work

The Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tsartlip First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA revealed COVID-19 outbreak

Chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA Adam Olsen apologizes

E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar is closing its doors until further notice after sexual assault allegations against an employee surfaced on social media. (Google Streetview)
Sexual assault allegations temporarily closing a second Victoria restaurant

Social media posts accuse an E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar employee of sexual assault

Valerie St. John and Heather Forbes hold up paintings by Sheryl Fisher that were auctioned off at the Bridges for Women Society’s 10th Annual International Women’s Day luncheon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria event raising funds to support women facing violence, trauma

Bridges for Women Society will host its 11th annual International Women’s Day event online this year

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
B.C. dentists and bus drivers want newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

BC Dental Association says dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

President of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring is calling for teachers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Why it’s ‘urgent’ B.C. teachers get vaccinated from COVID-19 before summer

President Teri Mooring says not enough is being done to prevent virus transmission in schools

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales. A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest's endangered orcas eat. Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured. They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Study reinforces importance of Chinook to Pacific Northwest orcas

Data confirms how central the big salmon are to the orca’s diet year-round

Most Read