Powerhouse construction at Site C dam on the Peace River, spring 2019. The project’s $10 billion price tag has pushed up B.C. Hydro debt. (B.C. Hydro)

Powerhouse construction at Site C dam on the Peace River, spring 2019. The project’s $10 billion price tag has pushed up B.C. Hydro debt. (B.C. Hydro)

B.C. Hydro applies for rare cut in electricity rates next year

Province wrote off $1.1 billion debt to help reverse rate increase

B.C. Hydro has applied for a rare rate decrease to take effect next spring, before the cost of hydroelectricity to B.C. consumers is forecast to climb again.

Documents released Friday by B.C. Hydro project a rate decrease of just under one per cent, an abrupt change from an upward trend in recent years driven by debt piling up to upgrade aging facilities and build the Site C dam on the Peace River.

The rate decrease is subject to approval by the B.C. Utilities Commission, and would take effect April 1, 2020. It would be followed by a 3.5 per cent rate increase a year later, according to the latest rates forecast.

B.C. Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley cited lower that forecast debt costs, stronger income from Powerex, the utility’s power trading subsidiary, and reduced costs from purchasing independent power.

The B.C. NDP government tried to freeze rates in 2018, but the BCUC rejected its application. Since then it has suspended independent power contract purchases and in Finance Minister Carole James’ latest budget, wrote off $1.1 billion of B.C. Hydro’s deferred debt by transferring it to the provincial debt.

“I’m thrilled that B.C. Hydro is now able to apply for a rate reduction for the first time in decades,” said Energy Minister Michelle Mungall, whose term got off to a rocky start when she promised a rate freeze and couldn’t deliver.

The NDP government moved to suspend B.C. Hydro’s “standing offer program” for independent power projects, after years of characterizing independent power as a key driver in rising costs. Exceptions would be made for Indigenous partnerships to develop power in remote regions that are off the B.C. Hydro grid, Mungall said at the time.

The NDP government produced a controversial report in February, entitled “Zapped,” that said former premier Gordon Campbell’s 2002 push into contracted run-of-river, wind and biomass power will cost B.C. Hydro $16 billion over the next 20 years.

RELATED: NDP’s consultant points finger at private power costs

RELATED: B.C. budget for 2019-20 bails out B.C. Hydro, ICBC

B.C. Liberal energy critic Greg Kyllo said the NDP’s “assault on clean energy producers” was a move to protect the unionized monopoly of B.C. Hydro production.

“British Columbia has been a leader in green tech and clean energy, and the advances we have seen over the past decade have been thanks to entrpreneurs, private businesses and First Nations investing in the future, certainly not government bureaucrats,” Kyllo said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sipili Molia, regional kettle manager, shows off the Salvation Army’s new contactless donation system for the 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign outside municipal hall on Dec. 1. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Tech offers hope as Salvation Army sees need skyrocket across B.C.

Charity is equipping hundreds of kettles across B.C. with ‘touchless giving technology’

Royal Bay Secondary’s leadership class, comprised of Grade 9 through 12 students, is part of the student team organizing this year’s 10,000 Tonight event that shifts entirely online for 2020. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
West Shore student food drive shifts entirely online

Drive-thru option removed from 10,000 Tonight in light of COVID-19 restrictions

Colwood resident, Geoffrey Irwin, has been missing since Sep. 27. His vehicle was found in Vancouver on Nov. 25. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
Police search for Colwood man last seen in September

Geoffrey Irwin’s vehicle was found in Vancouver Nov. 25

BC Transit confirmed on Dec. 1 that a Langford employee has tested positive for COVID-19. (Courtesy of BC Transit)
Langford transit worker tests positive for COVID-19

Island Health is conducting contact tracing for the case

Firefighters on scene for a gas leak in the 800-block of Viewfield Road in Esquimalt on Dec. 1. (Vanessa Nicholson photo)
No injuries after vehicle strikes Esquimalt gas line

Esquimalt Fire Rescue was called to the 800-block of Viewfield Road at 5 p.m.

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Dave Wallace coached the Parksville Royals for 23 years. (PQB News file photo)
B.C. baseball community mourns death of legendary Vancouver Island coach Dave Wallace

‘All who knew Dave and his passion for the game will miss him greatly’

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Most Read