Earlier this month, Bill Bennett the BC Liberal Minister of Energy announced that the government would not force smart meters on the 60,000 homeowner smart meter holdouts who didn’t want them. “We don’t want to force people to have a smart meter if they really don’t want one. It’s not our intention to offend people or bully people,” said Bennett. Almost immediately groups like StopSmartMeters.ca took issue with the planned concession from the government.
James Smith, president of StopSmartMeters.ca said, “This is no concession. Why has Mr Bennett not agreed to amend Section 17 of the Clean Energy Act to reflect the intent of his concession?” Smith is urging the holdouts to continue to do so. For the BC government, that BC Hydro issue may turn out to be the simple one to deal with going forward as they now face the upcoming BC Hydro rate increases.
According to IntegrityBC, BC Hydro ratepayers are in for a shock, and they are in no financial position to absorb increased rates. IntegrityBC says that while B.C.’s hydro rates may be amongst the lowest in Canada, that’s of little relief for the average family already facing the highest provincial tax burden west of Quebec.
British Columbians are being nickel-and-dimed to death one fee at a time. Whether its $25 monthly wheelchair maintenance fees, tolls, or threatened hydro rate hikes, British Columbians don’t have the fiscal room in the family budget to pay for waste at BC Hydro or anywhere else in government.
The following is the media! News Magazine interview with IntegrityBC’s Executive Director Dermod Travis about BC Hydro and what British Columbians should expect in the months to come.
What kind of rate increase can we expect to see for consumers and business?
Before the election, BC Hydro had applied for a rate increase of 32 per cent over three years. After a public outcry, the government cut that to 17 per cent. However, with the election now safely out of the way, it’s likely that the government will allow BC Hydro to raise rates so as to restore the original 32 per cent and possibly even more moving into the fourth and fifth years.
Do you think higher rates may drive away some businesses/industries?
Any increases will – as they have in the past – fall disproportionately on residential users. However, the concern over the impact of these increases on BC’s overall competitiveness will be in attracting businesses in the future and encouraging the expansion of existing businesses.
Companies looking to establish or expand on the west coast will always have Seattle on their list of prospective locations and any disproportionate increases of hydro rates will only serve to push businesses towards Washington State and other locations. Existing businesses also need a sense of long-term rate stability which – given BC Hydro’s current financial state – may represent some very ominous rate hikes in the future.
Did the BC Liberals hide the state of BC Hydro before the election?
No. The NDP and other parties failed to make the case: to make the state of BC Hydro finances and its future economic viability one of the major election issues. The numbers are there for anyone who wants to look for them, but the parties chose not to drive those numbers home during the campaign which is regrettable since at the very least British Columbians deserve a vigorous public debate on the state of its public utility.
How much are the PPP issues responsible for BC Hydro’s problems?
Considerable. BC Hydro has never made the economic case for these contracts and the B.C. government has failed to make the business case for the province in signing these deals.
But what’s truly alarming about these contracts is that BC Hydro is forced to buy the power regardless of whether they need it or not. So B.C. is now in the kafkaesque situation of BC Hydro purposely spilling water from its reservoirs instead of using it to generate power from its own facilities just so that they can honour these contracts.
Nearly one out of every two working British Columbians live paycheque to paycheque. B.C. has some of the highest housing costs in the country. Vancouver is the most expensive city to live in in North America. There’s simply no fat left to cut in a B.C. family’s budget.
Dermod Travis concluded by saying, “The problem with any hydro rate increase is that British Columbians don’t have the fiscal room in their family budgets to absorb more rate increases on top of other government fees that continue to escalate as well – from MSP to tolls to ferry fares.”
IntegrityBC is a non-partisan non-profit organization based in Courtney, British Columbia. To learn more about IntegrityBC please visit their website at www.IntegrityBC.ca