In my last MLA report concerning the increase in BC Hydro rates, I stated that the decisions that have been most costly to the financial well-being of this Crown corporation have been made by the BC Liberal Premier and cabinet. Two of these decisions that I would like to discuss further are long-term energy purchase agreements with private power producers and the installation of smart meters.
BC Hydro has long operated on the ‘buy or produce low, and sell a bit higher’ concept. Using this model, BC Hydro was able ensure that the power needs of British Columbians were met, and the rates for power were kept very reasonable for individual ratepayers, businesses, institutions and industry. Much of the economic success of the province has been aided by this fact; our rates for power were amongst the lowest in the country.
But with the advent of the BC Liberal Energy Plan in 2006, the government imposed a new concept on BC Hydro: buy high, sell low. And with this new model, we watched BC Hydro go from being a highly profitable, dividend-bearing Crown corporation to being saddled with debt. So much damage in such a short amount of time.
The BC Liberal government forced BC Hydro to sign long-term energy purchase agreements with private power producers at rates that were far above the market. And they were forced to buy this power even though it was surplus to the needs of the province. As a result, the market rate for this surplus power was very low. Even the most profitable company can only sustain this kind of loss for so long.
The second example of government interference that is now costing you money was Premier Gordon Campbell’s decision that every analog BC Hydro meter would be replaced by a smart meter. Aside from all the concerns that have been raised about the safety or appropriateness of smart meters, from the very first moment it was clear that there was no business plan to ensure this expenditure made sense. There was no proof that the $1 billion cost would be recovered, nor that any benefit would be accrued to ratepayers, the environment or the economy.
There is a price to be paid for these bad decisions. And who ultimately pays that bill? You do.
Norm Macdonald is the MLA for Columbia River—Revelstoke