Saturday, 23 April 2011

A concerned citizen's letter re BC Hydro

published in the April 15 edition of the Campbell River Courier-Islander.

"Now there's a profundity! Merely a month on the job and Hon. Rich Coleman is qualified to single-handedly determine the engineering, safety, and financial merits of BC Hydro projects. Does he think that Hydro would be proposing the project if it didn't need to be done? Some sort of a 'make work' project perhaps? In your article Mr. Coleman goes on to say "...But we also need to minimize costs and take care about the burden we're placing on families ... you also have to figure out how you an bring your costs in and cash-flow it through so that your rates will be kept down..."
To ensure that Mr. Coleman's prerequisites can be met, he has struck a panel of 'senior officials' to examine Hydro's financial performance, its operating and capital requirements, the reliability of its forecasting systems, administrative expenses, procurement processes, cost containment strategies, and opportunities for savings.
As a retired BC Hydro manager with 36 years service I feel both compelled and qualified to comment. The underlying implication of Mr. Coleman's comments and actions is that BC Hydro is inept and that somehow by the end of June his panel of 'senior officials' is going to identify the various errors of Hydro's ways and get them on track towards providing low cost, reliable, clean hydroelectric energy for the citizens and industry of British Columbia.
Whoa! Reality check!
The facts of the matter are that BC Hydro, through the watchful eye of the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) and the incredible foresight of the W.A.C. Bennett government has been providing the lowest cost, reliable, green, 100% renewable electrical energy in North America to the citizens and industry of B.C for the past 50 years. >
And, just as importantly, they would still be doing so if the provincial government (yes, the same Liberal government that Mr. Coleman is and has been a Minister for) had not decided to use (or more accurately abuse) BC Hydro as an enormous "cash cow" and steal hundreds of millions of dollars from them per year in "dividend payments" to the "shareholder" (the government on behalf of British Columbians).

The fact is that the government saw Hydro's large cash flows and capital and operational program funds as huge cash reserves that they could 'better use' to fund other government programs for which funding would otherwise have to be reduced or taxes would otherwise have to be increased. Our 'diligent' premier and his cabinet simply didn't care that their 'rob Peter to pay Paul' actions would require Hydro to cut and/or seriously curtail their requisite system operations and capital programs.
In fact, to add insult to injury, the Liberal government under Premier Gordon Campbell forced BC Hydro to take on billions of dollars in additional debt in the form of long term (30 -- 40 year) 'use or pay' contracts with private run-of-river and wind power developers. Furthermore, the contracted energy costs are two to three times higher than current electrical energy value.
So, back to Mr. Coleman's quandary. What will his panel of experts determine? What can we do to ensure that the citizens and industry of British Columbia are getting the best bang for their energy dollar?

How can we be sure that Hydro and its villainous team of engineers and technicians isn't out to screw us? Well, I would like to humbly suggest the following solutions: Get your grubby government hands out of BC Hydro's pockets. For the past 50 years the citizens and industry of British Columbia have enjoyed 'real' dividends from BC Hydro in the form of the lowest cost, clean, reliable electrical energy in North America (possibly the world). This didn't happen by accident and it certainly isn't indicative of a poorly run energy corporation.
Let BC Hydro work to its mandate and let BCUC do its job of overseeing Hydro's operations.
Make the government the 'fall guy' rather than BC Hydro and explain why Hydro is in the mess it's in. The government created the mess so they should at least have the intestinal fortitude and integrity to admit it.
Unfortunately we are all going to have to pay to get ourselves out of this mess but at least we should know the real cause so that future generations don't repeat this sham.
M.J. (Marv) Everett, Retired,
Campbell River
(bolds are mine)
There are many people in British Columbia who harbor suspicions about the motives of the current Liberal government to undermine the work of BC Hydro in the first place, and the reasons for private power Run of the River projects.
Some believe that, (using the BC Rail trial jargon) that 'Tips' might have been provided to certain officials. Most of these power projects have a limited liability to even provide power for the people of BC and after their initial contracts run out, said to be for only five years, they are free to use the resources of BC rivers for their power to supply out of country electricity, to California air conditioners and Nevada neon etc without having to provide one milliwatt to British Columbians!
BC Hydro has, as Mr. Everett said, been trusted for fifty years by British Columbians, to look after OUR needs, and he is careful to acknowledge the foresight of WAC Bennett to build this into the corporation. Alas, governments with benefits for BCers in mind are sadly gone.
We notice Mr. Colman's clever use of Christy Clark's new election buzzword, 'families', and we wonder how many journals, radio, newspapers, TV stations and other media will bring up even ONE question in the coming provincial election to a Liberal candidate regarding the destruction of the jewel of Crown Corporations in BC and it's effect on the families of British Columbians?