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Bennett's changes are a long way in the future. What about today? | Energy in BC & beyond

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Bennett's changes are a long way in the future. What about today?

Re: Les Leyne: Hydro policy changes are bewildering

Les Leyne gives the impression that Bennett will re-empower the Utilities Commission, but his plan to let BCUC set BC Hydro's rates is out in the future, in fact, beyond the next provincial election. Meanwhile, Bennett continues the pattern set by the Clark government in 2012 of intervening to dictate BC Hydro's rates according to the government's political agenda, i.e. the "protection" of BC's families by sweeping the real cost of electricity under the rug/onto future ratepayers.

Likewise, Leyne gives the impression that the government will see that BC Hydro's ballooning deferral accounts and debt are paid down. Again, this is in the future: The special regulatory account that is being set up to reduce BC Hydro's regulatory accounts (go figure!) is set to grow from $181 million now to $1.1 billion in Fiscal 2020 (~ 2019), i.e. conveniently after the next election. And BC Hydro's overall debt is set to increase to some $19.6 billion in that year, before starting to ease downward. Likewise, the stated intention to reduce government's dividend from BC Hydro is postponed to 2017 or 2018. (http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/downloads/Presentation.pdf)

It's great that Bennett is committing a future government to make these cuts, but what about now? And who is to say that a future government will go along?

In the short term, the BCUC has been pretty much cut out of the picture, at a time when I would argue that their expertise, transparency and independence (relatively far more independent than the government from political trade-offs) is critically important, both the determine BC Hydro's resource planning direction, and to do due diligence on BC Hydro's costs.

The government has dictated BC Hydro's rate of investment in energy conservation for the next ten years at rate 8 - 10% lower than Hydro's current rate of investment, based on a back-room deal with BCH management. Will this enable Hydro to achieve its conservation goals? There is no way to know because the details are not publicly available.

Tom Hackney
Policy Director
BC Sustainable Energy Association
www.bcsea.org

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