BC government cuts Hydro rates and limits process. Is that a bad thing?
The BC government found itself in an odd position a couple of weeks ago, when they announced the settlement of BC Hydro rates at a "mere" 17% over three years and cancelled BC Utilities Commission hearings, getting major political flak for their decision.
Unlike the NDP rate freeze in the 1990s, the 17% was not going to break the system. BC Hydro's starting position had been 30% over three years. Too high, said the government, and ordered a complete review of Hydro's operations, which was released last August.
By May of this year, the government, BC Hydro and the major customers had met and hammered out an agreement for the rates over the three years ending mid-2014. The government directed that the rates hearing were no longer needed. The critics had a field day.
What exactly was the complaint? That a lengthy publicly funded hearing was cancelled?
The real reason many wanted the BCUC hearing is because they wanted to delve into other aspects of BC Hydro's operations. Independent Power Producers and deferral accounts are both hot topics. Those may be an important policy debates, but there are plenty of other forums, including the political one, where those debates can take place.
Behind all this discussion are some fundamental differences between the BC Liberals and the BC NDP. The NDP has opposed most forms of generation and supply proposed for BC: Site "C", natural gas plants, oil pipelines, and independent power producers. They even oppose the carbon tax, a revenue neutral tax which is one of the first in the world.
Perhaps the NDP will go into the election maintaining those positions, or perhaps they will state what they in fact plan to do – because BC, an energy-rich province, needs power generation and no government can ignore that.
For more information
1. BC Hydro's letter to BCUC in regard to the rates decision: BC Hydro Submitting Comments regarding Direction No. 3 and Amendments to Heritage Special Direction No. HC2
- post by Suzanne Anton