VICTORIA – New Democrats are vowing to fight the B.C. Liberals’ Clean Energy Act in the legislature this week. The bill would allow $10 billion in spending without appropriate public oversight, remove consumer protection from unnecessary hydro rate hikes and shift more of British Columbians’ money into the hands of private power companies, say New Democrats.
“You don’t have to dig very deep to see that behind this legislation is an agenda to put public money directly into the hands of private corporations,” said John Horgan , New Democrat energy critic.
“The B.C. Liberals are throwing out the consumer rate protection that the B.C. Utilities Commission provides, and replacing it with a reckless plan to concentrate energy decision-making around the cabinet table.
“Politicians with no experience whatsoever in the energy sector will be setting arbitrary targets for energy production, export limits, transmission lines and many other things they have no qualifications for,” said Horgan, noting that the act puts billions of dollars worth of projects under direct control of cabinet and wipes out the BCUC’s oversight to approve projects.
“The B.C. Liberals want to have their cake and eat it too – they say the BCUC will still have control over approving rate hikes, but the commission must approve the billions B.C. Hydro will have to pay at the direction of the premier. Hydro will have no choice but to increase rates dramatically to pay for it,” said Horgan.
The act also prohibits the BCUC from evaluating the merits of independent power projects under B.C. Hydro’s clean power call, and directs B.C. Hydro to use public dams to firm and shape the intermittent power IPPs generate to make it more attractive for export.
“Public assets and public servants at B.C. Hydro will be working for private companies to add value to their export products, only to see the rewards go to huge corporate profits instead of back to British Columbians,” said Bruce Ralston , New Democrat finance critic.
“Power from private producers is far more expensive to generate, in part because of the high interest they have to pay on borrowed capital,” said Ralston, noting that many IPPs are paying 12 per cent or more per year, while B.C. Hydro paid just one per cent per annum last year on major capital borrowing.
“B.C. Hydro ratepayers – that is, most British Columbians – are paying for expensive privately-produced power while the IPPs enjoy operating profits between 64 and 86 per cent of total sales, and net profits of 25 to 27 percent.
“And the profits aren’t even staying in British Columbia. Nearly 84 cents of every dollar paid to IPPs goes out of province to corporate parents in either foreign countries or other provinces,” said Ralston, noting that in 2008/09, B.C. electricity consumers sent $203 million to foreign-based IPPs, $163 million on out of province Canadian IPPs, and just $70 million to IPPs owned and operated in B.C.
Bill 17, the Clean Energy Act, is currently being debated in the B.C. legislature.
“We will oppose Bill 17 by every means necessary,” said Horgan. “Without BCUC oversight of major projects and independent power producers, the risk is too great to B.C. ratepayers and the profits too great for foreign-owned and out-of-province independent power producers.”
Carole James and New Democrats have been holding the B.C. Liberals accountable for breaking their word on the HST, and for backtracking on their election promises to protect health care, education, and other vital services.