Utilities Watchdog Bites Private Power

July 28, 2009

For Immediate Release
July 28, 2009

BURNABY – Yesterday the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) released an order which unequivocally curtails the gold rush towards private power in BC. 

The BCUC concluded that the Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP) submitted by BC Hydro was “not in the public interest”, disrupting the provincial governments’ ongoing political interference of our public utility.     

The BCUC order is a vindication of the comprehensive analysis submitted by MoveUP on the LTAP and Clean Power Call. The BCUC agrees with MoveUP’s research and submissions: the government cannot exaggerate the need for power by downgrading the Burrard Thermal plant, shortchanging conservation efforts and forcing the purchase of private power, with British Columbians and ratepayers taking the risk.

Flowing from their decision that the LTAP was fundamentally flawed, the BCUC again agreed with MoveUP that BC Hydro does not need the power asked for in the Clean Call.  The Clean Call would have burdened BC Hydro with 3000 Gigawatts of surplus power – an enormous amount of unneeded electricity. The Commission’s decision means BC Hydro cannot use an LTAP decision to justify expenditures and expensive contracts with private power and then try and recover the costs through taxpayers.

The BCUC decision ensures each energy purchase contract and expenditure will come under more scrutiny to demonstrate if the project is in the best interest of British Columbians.

The BCUC also found the conservation efforts in the LTAP lacking. The Commission called the Demand Side Management provisions “deficient” and said that programs will decay.  

“We are thrilled that the BCUC has recognized what we’ve been saying all along,” said MoveUP President Andy Ross, “this is power we don’t need at a price we can’t afford.”

Over night markets quickly reacted to the BCUC’s decision to reject the government’s rush into private power and stocks plummeted. Hardest hit is Plutonic Power, the corporation developing a massive system of hydro projects in the Bute and Toba Inlets. 

Yet unknown is if the powerful private power lobby will convince the provincial government to overturn the BCUC’s decision, or more ominously, its mandate and autonomy. “We saw it with Alcan. The BC Liberal government could use their cabinet powers to do an end-run around the BCUC,” warned Ross. “Alternatively the government could backstop the purchase of private power under the guise of economic stimulus.”    

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Media Contact: Lori Winstanley, (778) 828-4039

PDF Version of Release

Read the BCUC decision here (large file – 236 pgs)