We have released a new Climate Justice Project report, Clean Electricity, Conservation and Climate Justice in BC: Meeting our energy needs in a zero-carbon future, co-authored by John Calvert and myself. The report is central to the vision we have been developing of a zero-carbon B.C., with a focus on the need to transition off of fossil fuels and the key role that BC Hydro can and should play in the transition. Our conclusion is upbeat and hopeful: we can do this -- but we need a major shift away from current policies.
The principal challenge we identify is that BC Hydro is subsidizing the mining and oil and gas sectors -- the dirtiest industries in B.C. from a climate and environmental perspective -- by building new transmission infrastructure for their benefit, and selling electricity to these industrial customers at very low prices. The cost of new supply, however, is much higher -- in the case of recent purchases, more than three times higher. Compounding the problem, BC Hydro is locked into long-term contracts with private producers at above-market prices. The upshot is that households, small businesses and other commercial customers are facing rate hikes. The Clark government has papered over these looming rate hikes by limiting the rate increase prior to the 2013 election -- but this is a problem that will not go away, and will only get worse if the B.C. government pursues its resource-sector expansion plans.
Instead, we need to rethink those plans, pursue aggressive conservation and energy efficiency, and focus on the imperative of climate action. BC Hydro recently tabled a draft Integrated Resource Plan anchored in accommodating new demand from dirty industries, so it is a good time to let them know we need a change in direction.
It was a real pleasure to work with John Calvert on this project. John was the first person to point out the impending cost pressures on BC Hydro from private power purchases back in 2007 in a report CCPA published called Sticker Shock, which later turned into a book, Liquid Gold: Energy Privatization in BC. I learned a lot from John and his immense knowledge of electricity policy and BC Hydro. The insights in the report were also greatly shaped by a climate justice workshop on electricity supply and demand issues. And special thanks to Nadene Rehnby and Sarah Leavitt who did a lot of work behind the scenes to make the final report look so awesome.
An opinion piece based on the report was published in the Vancouver Sun and is available here.
This article was first posted on Behind the Numbers.