VICTORIA, B.C. — B.C.’s Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall said that killing the Site C dam project would result in an increase to BC Hydro rates of ten percent, one day before the provincial government announced that it was freezing Hydro rates for the next twelve months.
On Wednesday, Mungall announced that BC Hydro would be rescinding its 2016 application to the B.C. Utilities Commission to increase rates in the next three years, with a three percent increase planned next year. The government said that BC Hydro rates have gone up by more than 24 percent in the last four years, and by more than 70 percent since 2001.
The government said that the one-year rate freeze will allow time for a comprehensive review of the Crown Corporation. Details of the review will be released once a final decision on Site C has been made, which is expected before the end of the year.
Mungall’s announcement is in contrast to answers she provided to Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracy Redies during an estimates debate in the Legislature on Tuesday. Joined by BC Hydro president and COO Chris O’Riley, Hydro CFO Cheryl Yaremko, and Assistant Deputy Minister of Energy Les MacLaren, Mungall said that if the government were to stop construction of Site C, the final costs of the project would total roughly $3.9 billion. Mungall also confirmed BC Hydro’s submission to the BCUC Inquiry that the cancellation of the project would mean it would need to increase rates by nearly ten percent.
In addition, Mungall said that BC Hydro’s operating costs had only increased from $705 million to $715 million in the last four years, a jump of 1.4 percent and that Site C was reportedly on time and on-budget when the BCUC review of the project was announced at the beginning of August.
BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver was critical of the government’s announcement that it was freezing Hydro rates and called for an overhaul of the province’s approach to dealing with energy.
“BC Hydro is in a dire financial position due to the utter failure of the BC Liberals to responsibly manage our finances. They raided BC Hydro of more than half a billion dollars in dividends last year alone,” said Weaver in a statement.
The NDP is at a crossroads. They can continue down this path of reckless Liberal fiscal management, or they can keep their promise to be better. While I’m glad they’re reviewing BC Hydro, there are concrete steps they can take to reverse the trend of energy policy being used as a political tool. They can and should cancel the Long Term Royalty Agreement with Progress Energy, who, by the way, is responsible for the two largest unregulated dams in North Eastern BC. They can, and should stop the pilfering of BC Hydro by requiring dividends that, if not stopped, will amount to $2.8 billion by 2020.”