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BC Utilities Commission pulls plug on government plans to privatize power

Regulatory body confirms province's need for additional power was grossly exaggerated.

Melissa Davis says government must now decide whether to act in public or private interestby BC Citizens For Public Power

News Release

VANCOUVER, July 28, 2009 — The BC Utilities Commission's (BCUC) decision on BC Hydro's 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP), released yesterday, has effectively stymied the provincial government's movement to privatize BC's electricity sector.

After almost a full year of hearings, the BCUC issued a ruling determining that the LTAP was "not in the public interest."

The BCUC decision represents a significant challenge to the government's Energy Plan, which called for the province to achieve energy "self-sufficiency" and "insurance" of supply through the purchase of large quantities of electricity. To realize these objectives, the Plan prohibited BC Hydro from generating any new sources of energy (excluding Site C, presently part of a five year review process) and, instead, directed its Crown utility to negotiate long-term Energy Purchase Agreements with private power producers. To date, BC Hydro has negotiated more than $30 billion in contracts with private power developers to purchase electricity at rates that by far exceed market prices.

"The decision is certainly a vindication of our group's raison d'ĂȘtre and the public awareness activities that we've been engaged in for the past seven years" says Melissa Davis, executive director with BC Citizens for Public Power, commenting on the BCUC ruling. The grassroots, non-profit organization was established in 2002 in response the government's first phase of privatizing BC Hydro when it outsourced one-third of its administrative and financial operations to Accenture.

"What we've seen, especially over the past several years, is an orchestrated effort to privatize the province's public utility through a combination of carefully crafted marketing messages, publicity campaigns, and legislation. First, the Energy Plan fabricates an energy crisis in BC; next private power is erroneously portrayed as synonymous with green energy and, by extension, most viable solution for BC's energy shortage and the fight against climate change."

"Even the government's own independent regulatory body - in examining the evidence - confirmed that the province's need for additional power has been grossly exaggerated," Davis said. It is obvious that this power is intended for export, she added, referencing a remark by Plutonic Power's CEO Don McInnes from the January 2009 BC Power Conference where he described the province as the "Saudi Arabia of green energy."

Markets responded to the BCUC announcement, which signaled a sudden and dramatic halt to the private power gold rush in BC, with Plutonic Power suffering a 24 percent drop in stock prices during the day.

Ultimately, Davis said, the provincial government will need to seriously examine the content of the BCUC ruling with respect to their energy policy. "Essentially, they are left with two options: either accept the decision of the Commission and concentrate their efforts on conservation and public renewable energy projects that are actually needed, or disregard their own independent regulatory body altogether in order to further advance their privatization agenda. As a government elected by the people of this province, one can only hope that that they will act in the public's interest."

BC Citizens for Public Power, a grassroots, non-profit organization established in 2002, works to ensure that BC's electricity system is publicly owned, regulated, and operated by and for the citizens of British Columbia, through mobilization, education, and advocacy.

Links and sources
  BC Citizens for Public Power

Posted: July 30, 2009

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