On one level, the B.C. government’s new Review of BC Hydro marks an about-face by the Liberals under Christy Clark, calling quits to Gordon Campbell’s projection of a “green energy powerhouse.” On a deeper level, however, it represents a deepening of the Campbell agenda. Campbell’s notion was that we’d become massive exporters of clean electricity mined from our rivers and wind, sold at a premium into the power-hungry California market. This represented a major shift in the mandate of BC Hydro.
From its inception, BC Hydro’s mission was to provide safe, reliable, low-cost electricity to British Columbians. Campbell changed this: Hydro was to become a booster and sales agent for private sector electrical generation corporations.
The reality was that BC Hydro was required to sign long-term contracts for power generated by the “Independent Power Producers.” Because IPP run-of-river projects do not meet California standards for “clean” this means we have to dump the high-cost power on the spot market, where it competes with coal and natural gas generation, for prices ranging from near-zero to about $50 per megawatt hour (and most of the time, around $35 or so).
Enter the Review. A committee of deputy ministers was established in April, and issued its report to the cabinet in June. It was released to the public early this August.
The report questions the more boundaries of the administration’s policies, but for the most part aims at short-term ways to save money that leave the main thrust of government’s policies for BC Hydro intact.
For example, it calls for Hydro to shelve some capital projects, but leaves the really big ones intact — Smart Meters, the Smart Grid, the Northwest Transmission line and the Dawson Creek-Chetwynd Transmission Project.
The report leaves intact the power purchase agreements. The Review lobbed a gentle rebuff toward the government’s policy of so-called “self-sufficiency”.