Translink to BC Hydro: welcome to my hell.

BC Hydro can be listed amongst the organizations that have been completely mucked up by the current BC Government. One of the last great Crown Corporations in BC, Hydro has managed to make money, create jobs, and provide a growing province with some of the lowest electricity costs in North America since it was first created by that raving socialist W.A.C Bennett in 1961. It is a stellar example of taking a public resource (our rivers) and turning them into a direct benefit for the people who own them.

However, all of the sudden, BC Hydro is in trouble. They are applying to the BCTC to increase rates in order to keep themselves, uh, above water. If you read Vancouver’s Newspapers, or listen to Vancouver radio, the culprit is pretty clear: It employs too many people. (although, bizarrely, the Sun also suggests that Hydro doesn’t burn enough natural gas).

Don’t worry, Darth Coleman has leapt in and said he can save the people of BC from unreasonably paying the same as the rest of North America for electricity, by cutting staff. But this is a complete distraction from the real reasons BC Hydro is in the situation it is. To find the truth, all one would have to do is read the actual report.

The executive summary is enough to realize this report should be a concern. BC Hydro is accused, in reference to building a safe, efficient, and reliable power grid, of “[having a] corporate culture [where] ‘being the best’ and the resulting desire to have the gold standard is not necessarily for lowest cost or greatest value for money.” – so they tried to be too good for their own good. Why should BC customers pay to have a safe, reliable power grid, when a less safe, less reliable one is available for less? They are also accused of being too “risk adverse”. God forbid a public utility should be risk adverse…

What of too many employees? From the report: “BC Hydro’s operating costs have been increasing over the past years largely due to the volume of work required for maintaining aging infrastructure and changes in legal, regulatory and environmental legislation/ practices resulting in significant and uncontrolled increases in the number of employees and spending.” So, maintenance demands and regulatory requirements have forced BC Hydro to increase staff. This is not discretionary hiring, but required hiring to fulfill their mandate in a tougher regulatory world.

This sentence is a beautiful piece of corporate-speak:
“BC Hydro rates are competitive with comparable jurisdictions, however, there may be a perception that general commercial customers are subsidizing residential customers.”
In other words, rates competitive, we have some of the lowest power rates in North America, but aside from these facts there is a perception that businesses pay too much compared to residents. Of course, the residents of BC own BC Hydro, it is perfectly reasonable that we set the rates to benefit us. It is hardly like our Hydro Rates are slowing business growth in BC. But there is a perception, so expect that corporate rates will go down, residential rates will go up.

It goes on, but it is too painful to read.

So what is really causing BC Hydro’s current financial crisis?

We can start by looking at how small pieces of BC Hydro are being sold off for short-term profit, with no regard for how it impacts the operation of the company.

Or maybe providing infrastructure to support a completely unsustainable boom in gas production in the Peace is costing BC Hydro Money, with no long-term payout for these short-term infrastructure needs. BC Hydro is effectively a taxpayer-funded subsidy to this unsustainable resource development by private international oil and gas industries.

Or we can look at the Independent Power Producers. That raving socialist Rafe Mair has bee non about the so-called “run of the river” power projects for years, mostly to deaf ears. This report almost reads like a Rafe Mair opinion piece of 5 years ago. IPP power costs BC Hydro way too much money. BC Hydro gets 16% of its power from IPPs, and pays almost 50% of it’s royalties to these parasites. We – you and I as the taxpayer owners of BC Hydro, and as BC Hydro rate payers, pay private companies 3x as much for the electricity that we could instead be producing ourselves. Power that we must purchase at times when we have a glut, and can’t get when rates are higher. Power BC Hydro did not want to buy, but was forced to by the Campbell/Clark government. Power we are now forced to buy for the next 60 years.

Similar to TransLink, the governance of BC Hydro used to be at arms-length from the government, overseen by an independent body. The BC Liberals have changed that, and have taken a 45-year-old profitable public service turning it into a short-term cash cow, ready for privatization. And you lose.

At least in New West, we have our own, fully accountable, locally run and super-efficient power utiility. Right?


One comment on “Translink to BC Hydro: welcome to my hell.

  1. I think I’d feel a lot more comfortable about the long-term prospects of New West’s electrical utility if it actually owned its own generating infrastructure; as it stands, doesn’t it just resell power generated by BC Hydro?

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