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ROUSING THE RABBLE: The big lie about B.C.'s power production

A big lie is a lie that is told so brazenly and so frequently that people accept it without thinking.

BC Hydro and the government have been telling British Columbians for a decade that BC Hydro cannot meet the needs of its customers and that the best way to fill the need is to pay private companies to install “run-of-river” generators, erect wind machines, build co-generation plants and develop solar energy farms.

I believe the lie is that there is a shortage of power and BC Hydro and the government have both told it very well. The truth is that progress has been made in terms of domestic energy conservation. Energy sales to domestic customers in 2009 was 53,588 gigawatt (GW) hours and by 2010 they had dropped to 50,233 GW hours.

In spite of this information, BC Hydro has been forced to continue to commit British Columbians to private power contracts that aren’t needed. Power is being purchased at inflated rates and exported at a loss.

David Field, a member of the group B.C. Citizens for Green Power (BCCGP), took Gordon Planedin to task over a letter to the editor published in the Feb. 23 issue of the Grand Forks Gazette. Field says Planedin’s letter is full of inaccuracies, one being that there are independent power projects other than “run-of-river.”

Field also invites Gazette readers to “dig deeper, ask questions and consider some of the information of our group, B.C. Citizens for Green Energy....”

Gazette readers should not limit their reading to Field’s  group’s website. They should read postings on BC Citizens for Public Power (BCCPP), The Tyee, and watchdog groups such as the Wilderness Committee and the West Kootenay EcoSociety. They should also check out B.C. Citizens for Green Power, a special interest group that was formed to counter information being distributed by BCCPP.

Keep in mind that many of the so called smaller “independent power producers” (IPPs) are subsidiaries of much larger ones. Plutonic Power, a big player on the coast, is a subsidiary of General Electric. Purcell Green Power, the company that submitted a proposal for the Glacier/Howser project in the Kootenays, is a subsidiary of AXOR, a huge Quebec-based engineering firm.

Up until 2011, if an IPP wanted to build a so-called run-of-river power plant, that would produce fewer than 10 megawatts of power, it could do so without a public process or an environmental assessment. That limit was recently raised.

A news release from BC Hydro in January 2011 told us that the corporation intends to alter the “Standing Offer Program” (SOP) by giving IPPs higher contract purchase prices of between 14 and 29 per cent if they produce 15 megawatts (MW) or less. The threshold was originally set at 10 MW.

Smaller power plants are exempt from environmental or public reviews depending on their locations, so it is reasonable to assume that their numbers will increase across the province to avoid assessments.

Erik Anderson, an economist and advisor and contributor to The Common Sense Canadian, has written a revealing report on the hydro issue that is worth reading. He claims that BC Hydro is deliberately driving hydro rates higher and that skyrocketing power bills will be with us for many years to come.

There are many truths to counter the lies that are being told and its up to all of us to search for them to avoid the trap that has been set.

Those among the population who followed the Liberal leadership contest closely might have noted that none of the candidates mentioned government policy that could eventually lead to the privatization of a company that has served residents well since it was incorporated by W.A.C Bennett.

Roy Ronaghan is a columnist for the Grand Forks Gazette