John Horgan tours the northeast

The NDP Energy Critic spoke at the Quality Inn in Fort St. John Wednesday night after spending two days touring Dawson Creek and Fort St. John energy facilities.

BC Liberals recently called for a review of BC Hydro. This was done by a panel of Deputy Ministers. The panel came up with a plan to cut the proposed rate increase in half by keeping the current interim rate of eight per cent for the next three years followed by a 3.9 per cent increase over the next two years. This decreases the previous proposed increase of 32 per cent to 16 per cent over 3 years.

The panel suggests achieving the rate increase reduction by lowering costs, including cutting up to 1,000 BC Hydro employees, citing overstaffing in communications, human resources and engineers.

Horgan says the panel made a mistake by comparing the number of engineers to those of the Ministy of Transportation.

"You don't reign in runaway expenditures at a multi-billion dollar corporation by cutting around the edges and claiming they have too many engineers."

He also cites the Liberals' decision to separate the Transmission Corporation from BC Hydro in 2003 as increasing costs. This created the need for double the number of positions, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. They combined the two again in 2009, again costing millions.

Horgan instead recommends that the government review its self-sufficiency policy. Currently BC Hydro is forced to have enough power on hand for its own use even in low-water years, as well have as a surplus, all from sources within BC. This means the province is buying energy from expensive independent producers even when it doesn't need it. Previously, it would buy power when it was cheap, hold it in the dams and sell it when it was expensive.

The panel shares Horgan's thoughts on the self-sufficiency policy, recommending the province and BC Hydro look at alternative definitions and timelines.