MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard spoke about Hydroelectric rates in the Legislature

Today, MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard spoke about Hydroelectric rates in the Legislature. You can read the transcript below, or watch the video here.

 I’m just not sure why the member opposite would like to draw attention to his previous government’s record, which has shown a distinct lack of interest in keeping energy rates low for B.C. families.

In fact, I think we need to have a hard look at what the previous government did to drive rates up for B.C. families. Hydro rates have increased 87 percent since 2001, most of that happening since 2008. Let’s compare that 87 percent increase to the rate of inflation in B.C. over that time — 26½ percent. That means our hydro rates have increased 3.3 times the rate of inflation. That doesn’t sound like a dedication to keeping hydro rates low.

[11:10 a.m.]

How did we get to this place of such escalating energy costs? First, let’s have a look at the Liberals’ 2002 energy strategy. That’s where the previous government mandated B.C. Hydro to buy, not produce, its own energy, giving rise to independent power producers.

The most popular production was still a form of hydroelectric power. But let’s be clear. Privatization did not drive costs down for British Columbian energy consumers. The whole scheme has been characterized by the privatization of profits, leaving the public body, B.C. Hydro and the B.C. public with all the financial risks.

Diversification, consideration of other energy sources and conservation are smart things to do. But any wisdom is lost in the muddy waters of the previous government’s poor processes.

B.C. Hydro’s forced commitment to IPP contracts are 40 to 60 years long, indexed to protect against inflation, and currently IPPs’ energy costs are coming in at $88.90 per megawatt hour, on average, while B.C. Hydro’s legacy of hydroelectric assets cost a mere $7.14 per megawatt hour. B.C. families have been experiencing energy rate hikes thanks to these contracts, which represent only 22 percent of the energy and production in B.C. but are a full 75 percent of our energy costs.

The previous government also proved that at the heart of their decisions were political interests, rather than the best interests of British Columbians who rely on B.C. Hydro for their energy needs. The B.C. Utilities Commission is an independent body that was set up by W.A.C. Bennett to make sure the monopoly of B.C. Hydro served the best interests of British Columbians.

The British Columbia government that is now sitting on that side of the room ran roughshod over the safeguards of the BCUC, first with the directives of its clean energy and self-sufficiency plans and later, as it avoided criticism and controversy, by simply exempting billions of dollars of B.C. Hydro projects from review, starting with the billion-dollar smart-meter rollout, not to mention the northwest transmission line, the ten-year rate plan, which started in 2013, to raise the rates by 28 percent over the first five years and, of course, Site C.

British Columbians are paying the price of the decisions of the previous government, who demonstrated no regard for whatever consequences might fall out of their unreviewed decisions. It’s a fools’ game to leave the expertise and independent eye of the BCUC out of any equation to determine what works to keep energy affordable for British Columbia. British Columbians deserve better than to have a government that rolls the dice at our expense. The previous government did that, but this government won’t be so irresponsible.