Mismanagement harming BC Hydro

B.C. Liberal government energy policy killing BC Hydro

Energy policy under the B.C. Liberals has been a complete failure, putting the future of BC Hydro in serious jeopardy and causing electricity rates in British Columbia to go through the roof.

Those are the facts; the B.C. Liberal spin is another matter entirely.

Ten years of reckless B.C. Liberal policies have resulted in skyrocketing rates for consumers and have put our once proud public utility on a fast track towards unsustainability. Picking a top 10 list of B.C. Liberal energy errors is easy; picking the worst of the bunch is harder. Near the top would be the initial decision to privatize one-third of BC Hydro operations and the costly move of creating a separate transmission company, only to put it back in the utility seven years later.

Forcing the Crown corporation to acquire all new electricity supply from private providers, removing oversight of billions of dollars in capital spending from the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC), and installing smart meters on every home in the province are other moves that made little or no sense.

However, the lynch-pin of the B.C. Liberal plan to shift public wealth into private hands was the policy of electricity self-sufficiency. The Clean Energy Act put into law the requirement for B.C. Hydro to become electricity self-sufficient, defined by a 50-year drought water level, plus a massive insurance requirement of an additional 3,000 GWh.

This policy has been a major driver of the B.C. Liberal government’s push towards buying high-cost power from independent power producers (IPPs), so it was an astonishing admission of failure by the B.C. Liberals when they announced last week they were changing the definition of self-sufficiency to require only enough power in an average water year.

However, they want to have their cake and eat it too. While relaxing self-sufficiency requirements, they will maintain the need to purchase power from private producers by claiming it will be used to fuel new LNG plants on the northwest coast, despite the fact that intermittent power from run-of-river and wind is virtually useless without firm power sources, such as B.C.’s heritage dams.

The B.C. Liberals refuse to admit the costs of their mismanagement of BC Hydro, which is why they have sidelined the independent public oversight of the BBUC. They must revisit the Clean Energy Act in the upcoming legislative session and allow for a comprehensive debate about our future energy needs and how we will go about securing that future.

Instead of making decisions behind the cabinet room door and out of public view, why not task the legislature’s Crown Corporations Committee to meet with people across B.C. and set a course that benefits us all? Equally important is restoring the role of the BCUC to allow for independent public oversight of major capital projects and other critical energy matters.

It’s time they admit to the mess they’ve made at BC Hydro, and start cleaning it up.

Let’s have a real discussion about our energy needs now and in the long-term. Adrian Dix and the NDP are prepared to have that discussion, and have been clear BC Hydro must have a renewed mandate for a leading role in B.C.’s electricity delivery and development, and that BCUC oversight must be restored.

John Horgan is the NDP energy critic and Opposition house leader.