Government to write $1 billion off BC Hydro’s books

Program for small-scale renewable energy projects to be scrapped

Energy, Mines and Petroleum Minister Michelle Mungall announces suite of changes for BC Hydro.

The BC government is writing off $1.1 billion in BC Hydro deferred debt, suspending a standing offer program for new, small-scale renewable energy projects, and standing aside when BC Hydro seeks approval for a 1.8% rate hike for April.

One day after she released a damning report on how much BC Hydro is paying for renewable energy projects approved under the previous Liberal government, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall announced February 14 a suite of changes for BC Hydro.

According to the report released February 13, the previous Liberal government locked BC Hydro into $16 billion worth of contractual obligations to independent power producers through its climate change action policies.

"Due to the decisions of the previous government, ratepayers will overpay billions of dollars for power they did not need," said Mungall.

Prior to that report, Auditor General Carol Bellringer noted that BC Hydro has $5.5 billion in deferral accounts – debt obligations that have been pushed into the future.

Mungall on Thursday announced that her government will write off $1.1 billion from those accounts.

It will also suspend a standing offer program, under which small wind, solar and run-of-river projects – many of them involving or spearheaded by First Nations – will be suspended.

Mungall also indicated her government will not interfere with the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) when BC Hydro asks for approval of a 1.8% rate increase for April 1, and another 0.7% the following year.

The measures being taken by the government will help keep BC Hydro rate increases to 8% over five years, according to a government press release.

Mungall said her government will restore the BCUC’s role an independent watchdog, responsible for approving rate hike applications by BC Hydro.

“Under this new framework, the BCUC will make decisions on rate increase, deferral accounts, capital projects as well as other important decisions that impact British Columbians," Mungall said. "Should government need to provide direction to BC Hydro, we anticipate that this will be very rare under our government compared to the past.”

nbennett@biv.com

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