More costly BC Hydro work needed

Costly upgrades to old dams are not enough to prepare BC Hydro for a major earthquake, and electricity rates will continue to rise

Ruskin dam in the Fraser Valley was built more than 80 years ago

VICTORIA – Costly upgrades to old dams are not enough to prepare BC Hydro for a major earthquake, and electricity rates will continue to rise as upgrades and expansion continue.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett acknowledged Thursday that further rate increases will be needed to finance improvements to the vast hydroelectric network and pay debt on works already completed or underway.

“My job will be to restrain the increases, but there’s no way we can continue to sell power to customers, whether they’re commercial or industrial or residential, at the rates that we’re selling it right now,” Bennett told reporters at the legislature.

NDP critics focused Thursday on a disaster preparedness audit commissioned by BC Hydro last year. The PricewaterhouseCoopers audit reported in December that BC Hydro is at high risk of a prolonged power outage after a major earthquake because of a lack of coordinated emergency plans.

“BC Hydro is not adequately prepared to react, respond and recover from a widespread catastrophic event such as an earthquake as there is not a mature or integrated preparedness program,” the audit states.

Bennett said BC Hydro has enough staff to improve disaster planning, so that shouldn’t represent a big cost. On that point at least, NDP energy critic John Horgan agreed.

“What the report says is that BC Hydro is not prepared,” Horgan said. “They don’t have any continuity plan for their business to continue. It’s not about money, it’s about being ready.”

BC Hydro spokesperson Simi Heer said the corporation is responding to the audit by accelerating its province-wide emergency response strategy, improving staff training and participating in emergency exercises. Regional emergency operations centres are planned in locations including Port Alberni, Campbell River, Nanaimo, Victoria, Burnaby, Maple Ridge, Prince George and Vernon.

BC Hydro is spending about $2 billion on seismic refits of two of its oldest dams, the John Hart dam at Campbell River and the Ruskin dam on the Mission-Maple Ridge border. Its current expansion project, the Northwest Transmission Line from Terrace to Iskut, was revealed last week to be $140 million over budget.

In April 2012, the B.C. Utilities Commission imposed an extra 2.5 per cent rate increase, bringing the rate increase for the year to seven per cent. That followed a cost-cutting review of BC Hydro that eliminated 700 jobs in an effort to keep the rate increase below four per cent.

The BCUC intervened after former auditor general John Doyle found $2.2 billion of deferred debt, and forecast that would grow to $5 billion by 2017.

Doyle said one reason the utility was piling up debt was to pay an annual dividend to the B.C. government. In 2011 that dividend was $463 million.

Just Posted

Horse carriage supporters to rally outside city hall

Owner of carriage company plans rally in response to Coun. Ben Isitt’s motion

UVic science and engineering research gets $18.8 million federal funding boost

Funding for engineering, science, sustainability research

Victoria woman competing for role as Maxim cover model

Winning model gets featured spread in magazine, cash price

Songbirds return to their roost in the West Shore

Tips, such as keeping roaming cats from ruffling any feathers, can attract more birds

VIDEO: Fun without sun: Hundreds enjoy Family Fest on Victoria Day

Families enjoy activities in Veterans Memorial Park

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2

Lowry pours in 25 as Toronto moves within two games of NBA Finals

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

Christmas morning burglar sentenced on Vancouver Island

Justin Redmond Feusse, 20, sentenced to 240 days in jail for Dec. 25 break-and-enter

So, do you know ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’?

Ontario man searching for fellow he travelled with in Europe 50 years ago

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Most Read