Energy minister says BC Hydro customers paying billions for unneeded, lengthy power deals

A report states the B.C. Liberals manufactured an urgent need for electricity, but restricted BC Hydro from producing it, forcing the utility to turn to private producers and sign lengthy contracts at inflated prices

A newly released report by the British Columbia government claims BC Hydro customers will pay $16 billion over the next two decades because the Crown utility was pressured to sign long-term contracts with independent power producers.

Minister of Energy Michelle Mungall commissioned the report, which blames the previous B.C. Liberal government for creating the problem.

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The report states the B.C. Liberals manufactured an urgent need for electricity, but restricted BC Hydro from producing it, forcing the utility to turn to private producers and sign lengthy contracts at inflated prices.

Former B.C. Treasury Board director Ken Davidson authored the study, which estimates the cost to the average residential BC Hydro customer will amount to about $4,000 over the next 20 years — or about $200 per year.

Davidson recommended all future energy purchases be made at market rates and said BC Hydro must be allowed to meet supply obligations through a reasonable level of market trading, rather than by generating all electricity within the province.

The B.C. NDP government launched a two-phase review of BC Hydro last June, in an effort to identify cost savings at the utility. A government news release said results of the first phase will be announced on Thursday.

Davidson's recommendations informed the BC Hydro review.

Mungall said he also concluded that the long-term deals forced upon BC Hydro were mainly with run-of-river producers, whose power is primarily available during spring runoff, when B.C. doesn't require electricity.

“B.C. didn't benefit. BC Hydro customers didn't benefit. A small number of well-placed independent power producers benefited and customers were stuck with a 40-year payment plan,'' Mungall said.

She said government and BC Hydro staff warned the former B.C. Liberal administration against requiring lengthy contracts with independent producers, but the advice was rejected.

“As a result, these contracts have already cost customers $3.2 billion and are set to cost billions more over the next two decades,'' Mungall said.

© Kamloops This Week

 


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