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

TKI Construction looks forward to being part of Rutland

The company is renovating the old AG Outdoor Superstore

Rockets’ tiebreaker for playoff berth a franchise first

The Rockets travel to Kamloops for a do-or-die match against the Blazers

‘Our sales are hurting’ Kelowna music hub takes hit after big competition moves in

Milkcrate Records still taking a hit after Sunrise Records moved into town 2 years ago

Construction set to begin on new roundabout in Lake Country

Construction is scheduled from April until July

Okanagan Golf Club welcomes proposed additions to courses

Kelowna City Council is discussing putting housing units on the 18th hole of the Quail

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

Avalanche control tomorrow on Highway 1

Expect closures of up to two hours east of Revelstoke

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January: B.C. coroner

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than illicit fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants

Kids found playing darts with syringes in Vancouver Island park

Saanich police is urging people to throw out their syringes properly and safely

Disappearance of Merritt cowboy now deemed suspicious: police

Ben Tyner was reported missing when his riderless horse was discovered on a logging road

Most Read