BC Hydro, utility or government ATM?Posted by Tom Fletcher
Here’s Energy Minister Rich Coleman, touring the John Hart Dam on the Campbell River last fall. This dam and Ruskin, on the Stave River in the Fraser Valley, were early stops in Coleman’s cost-cutting tour after he was assigned by Premier Christy Clark to bring BC Hydro rate increases under control.
Coleman agreed with BC Hydro that both those projects should proceed, and they should increase output enough that they will pay for themselves over the next decade or so. But Coleman got the BC Hydro controversy rolling again yesterday when he announced that the B.C. Liberals are once again overruling the B.C. Utilities Commission and imposing a 1.44 per cent rate increase to take effect just before the 2013 election.
That decision appears designed to head off a hearing set to start in June where the BC Utilities Commission would review rate increases. BC Hydro’s office union, COPE 378, and other foes of the B.C. Liberals were getting ready for a frontal attack on the smart grid program, independent power and other BC Hydro moves that were exempted from BCUC scrutiny.
The NDP have been targeting BC Hydro for weeks, most recently calculating that the utility was required to pay $180 million in the first three months of the year buying private power, while some of its own capacity was idle and water was being spilled over the Peace Canyon dam.
“The Liberal government’s focus is on short-term political gain,” said NDP energy critic John Horgan.
The BC Liberals were quick to respond, their war room stirring to life as the election is now less than a year away. A release quoted Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm reminding voters of the NDP’s manipulation of BC Hydro during the 1990s. Not only did the NDP government freeze BC Hydro rates for years, pushing up today’s rates to catch up on projects like fixing up those old dams, but in the dying days of the NDP government they made BC Hydro issue $200 rebate cheques to everyone.
We haven’t seen anything that cynical since Gordon Campbell sent everyone a cheque to help the carbon tax go down.
Nothing new about BC Hydro being used as an ATM for the government of the day.