A proposed 30 per cent hydro increase over three years has now been dropped by nearly half.

That’s after a panel led by three senior officials reviewed B.C. Hydro’s expenses and concluded it must reduce its costs by $800 million over the next three years.

The panel was hired last April and was led of Deputy Minister to the Premier, John Dyble; Deputy Minister of Finance, Peter Milburn and Acting Deputy Minister of Advanced Education, Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland. It was given the mandate to develop options to reduce the impact of hydro rate increases on families after there was a public outcry earlier this year.

The power authority had applied to the B.C. Utilities Commission to hike up rates 9.73 per cent in each of the next three years. However, the new proposed rate will include an eight per cent increase next year and then four per cent over the two subsequent years.

Although it acknowledged B.C. Hydro has been working on strategies to reduce its costs, the panel made several recommendations to further dramatically cut costs and over a shorter timeline. One of the recommendations revolved around cutting its operational costs. It suggests the power authority cut its workforce from nearly 6,000 employees to 4,800, saving it approximately $175 million.

B.C. Hydro says it has already cut 250 jobs and is working on cutting another 350, but has not yet agreed to cut the suggested 1,000 workers. It also says it will ensure any cost-cutting measures will not jeopardize safety.

In addition to an over-expanded workforce, the panel also noted that the power authority had several inefficient practices, including the repetition of work and over planning projects before putting them out to tender.

It did acknowledge B.C. Hydro customers currently pay some of the lowest rates in North America and it is a very customer-oriented service.

Despite the projected cuts, the power authority made it clear that there is no change in its plans to construct the proposed Site C dam along the Peace River, due to anticipated energy increases across the province.

The full report can be viewed below.