Friday, September 13, 2013

Punishing electricity consumers

When Gordon Campbell led BC Liberals into the 2009 election campaign, his platform promised,
"We will maintain our competitive advantage from low cost heritage power, for residential and industrial users alike."
When that promise was made, BC Hydro's annual domestic revenues were $2.8 billion. In 2013, BCH extracted over $4 billion from the pockets of British Columbians for domestic power. Price increases imposed in 2013 result in the utility scooping another $400 million in the current fiscal year. On top of that, according to a leaked document, prices will rise another 19% in the next year.

So much for low cost power promised voters a few short years ago.

In earlier 2013, CBC reported Energy Minister Rich Coleman, cutting proposed rates increases, said families need a break and the Crown corporation can afford the cut.
"Next April, ...electricity rates are due to increase by 1.4 per cent, Coleman said."
Families must now ask Coleman if he was ignorant about energy issues before the election or if he was telling lies. The Minister of Graft and Corruption knows the answer.

This graph provides a hint.

Most of the BC Hydro price increases result from contracts made with private power producers. In 2009, long term energy purchase contracts totalled $22 billion; in 2013, the present value of those obligations was $55 billion.

Liberals also pledged that 50 per cent of all new demand for power would be met through conservation. That promise has been kicked to the curb because multinational energy companies demand huge amounts of subsidized electricity so they can produce liquid natural gas. The Minister of Graft and Corruption is handling those negotiations so we should be very worried.

Consumers in BC will be punished again because, if LNG plants fire up, domestic gas prices will rise to match levels determined by Asian export markets. Based on recent experience, consumer prices for gas will rise but royalties paid by gas companies will not.

Here is a graph of BC Hydro domestic revenues from 1998. It demonstrates the disastrous impact of  energy policies that BC Liberals imposed on this province in 2009.

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  1. So Bennet is using the excuse for what is happening at BC Hydro on the past governments. They never invested in new capital projects and they had too blah blah blah. The immense theft that has occurred from this public utility is plain to see is a result of the 'free market' ideology where these groupies will not stop until there is not one thing public left. Then we will all be left to cry in our soup.

    Bennet is also trying to make himself out to be a hero as rates will land at just under 10% and stick there and not at some made up rate leaked to the public. 10%! It's outrageous!

    Is there any way that only those that voted Liberal can pay for all the crap they cause? Oh and did you hear Christy is rewarding Kelowna with another crossing?

  2. Norm, it's a struggle to figure out the mentality of BC voters. Here we have a government which put in place policies that have basically bankrupted BC Hydro and yet they are rewarded with 4 more years in the drivers seat. A government that has created the biggest debt in BC history, a government that has been described as corrupt with scandals on a weekly basis...and yet BC voters say we want you back.
    Is it truly possible that BC voters were unaware of this sinking ship ?
    How can anyone explain this stupidity ? Just this morning my wife asked... "Why should I have to pay or this, I am not the one who made these decisions"
    We live in a very strange society Norm, and while I don't have the answer, the one thing is for's going to cost a lot more to live in a Province that is blessed with such natural resources.

    Guy in Victoria

  3. Gordon Campbell's reign of terror, was nothing more than pure gangsterism, where the publicly owned utilities were either sold off or run down to such an extent that they would be worthless. Only the wealthy would realize real benefits under Campbell's evil. To my mind, Gordon Campbell is a criminal and should be treated as such.

  4. Today I read in the Victoria Times-Colonist that people with old-style meters will pay $35 per month to have their meters read. People with smart meters but with the transmitter turned off will pay $20 per month to have their meters read. Yet the article says that BC Hydro claims the fee will be used to offset the cost of reading the meter.

    There's a few things wrong here.

    - How can it cost $15 more to read an old-style meter than a new smart meter.

    - Does it really cost $35 to read an old meter?

    - I am a low-energy user and some months, particularly in the summer, I won't use more than $40 - $45 worth of electricity. Does that mean the actual cost of electricity was only $5 - $10 per month? Not likely....

    - Finally, if you are on a smart meter, then the cost savings of $35 per month should be passed on to the consumer.

    1. $35 a month is higher than my usage most of the year.

      In an official letter to BC Hydro/ Corix (which Citizens for Safe Technology recommended sending to prevent installation of a Smartmetre), I offered to read the metre myself (and forward the reading monthly) for which there has been precedent and protocol for many years---mainly from remote metre locations where regular metre reading is impractical. All that remains is the matter of my remuneration---what is it, now?...$20 a read?...something like that.

      Haven't got back to me yet. Just as well: I only just occurred to me that I forgot to send them a bill for the security features I installed to protect our mutual property. Whew! That was close!

      I wonder if this is worthy of the BCUC's attention: not responding to my letter is negligent and bad-faith; threatening me with these punishments flies in the face of my perfectly legal offer. Aren't the BC Liberals supposed to be all about 'free enterprise'? Put another way, I'm also a shareholder in BC Hydro.

  5. Funny how the old-style meters are only read every two months at best, and the reading is being combined with gas meters. I would be happy to take a date-stamped digital photograph of my meter and send it in. The meter reader need only come out once a year to verify things, as is done now. They cannot get into my yard without me being home to let them in anyway.

    By the way, this is the first I have heard of the "transmitter" on smart meters being able to be turned off! I just don't trust the bastards for moving us rapidly along to time of use billing!

  6. I got my letter from B.C. Hydro today, telling me l have to let them know by Dec. 1st. If want to keep my old meter and if i do it's $35per month....what a bunch of crap....i thougt our fearless leaders in Victoria said during the election they wouldn't force them on us.....what is that?

  7. They want $35 a month to read my electricity meter????? What the f...!

    I'm on the month installment plan. They would only have to read it once a year. It would not be beyond the realm for them to be charging $35 a month, as a fine, for not have the stupid meters installed. For every one of those meters, not installed, there was a loss of money for the installation company.

    It might be they need all this money to make B.C. Hyrdo at least a break even proposition so it can be sold to a "friend".

    If they charge people $35 and $20 a month, they will start charging those who don't need a meter reader, a monthly amount for having to send them a bill. Not possible you say? Just watch.

    If B.C. consumers/citizens/taxpayers are going to be charged these huge increases, why would these LNG plants be building here. won't they use electricity? Or are they going to be charged a "lower incentive" rate? Just asking.

    So where is all this money going to be coming from. Wages in B.C. are not high. Most working people are just getting by. For some people, on fixed incomes, these types of increases will result in a lot of problems. if nothing else people will have less money to spend at local stores or to give to local charities. Speaking of charities and such, how will all these rate increases impact school, hospital, care homes budgets, etc.?

    Oh, well the people of B.C. voted for these clowns, now they can live with it and some will die with it. Increased poverty is never a nice thing to watch. Living in a cold home is never good for young children. Yes, people will conserve energy, but at what expense to their health?

    With a "fee" of $35 a month and a possible increase of up to 50% in my hyrdo rates on a current monthly bill of $95 amonth, that adds up to a few $s. where will it come from in the budget? I'm one of the lucky ones who have an indexed pension which sends me more than many families make each month. What do the rest of the people do, if they can't afford it.

    Time to go look for one of those nice small wood stoves. Not a pellet stove, that requires electricity. I'm not going to give B.C. Hydro/b.c. lieberals one nickel more than I absolutely have to.

  8. I, too, received my "Dear Valued Customer" letter today outlining with the offer of 3 options (also easily interpreted to mean no valid choices). When the ignorant twit came banging on my door this spring, he unceremoniously informed me that I would have to hire a carpenter to make alterations to our cedar siding so that he could install a Smart Meter. I told him that I did not request this change in meters, therefore I should not be expected to bear the cost for something THEY insisted on doing. Just like "Mr Big", he harrumphed off and said something like "you'll be hearing from us!"

    Which I did a while back one evening so I assume they hired a marketing firm or whatever to make these calls. Tried to impress me on why it was a such a good idea to get their lovely meter. I declined his offer and he said familiar words before he hung up "you'll be hearing from Hydro".

    I think we all know Hydro is in serious financial trouble - except for those pinheads who voted the Libs back again as well as those pinheads who didn't think it important to vote at all. Problem is I've always thought its not how much money you earn, but how you spend it that counts. So, starting at the top, how about reducing the magnanimous salaries and bonuses awarded to a growing number of Hydro managers. Secondly, why do we have Accenture running most of the company at great cost to consumers. I have a friend who can't wait to retire as they are not nice people to work for. Also have a contact, an experienced manager, who has been hired as a contractor. This person is aghast at the lack of productivity to which senior managers seem oblivious. Not only that, there is an inordinate amount of time conducting employee "feel good" meetings, to which all contractors attend as well. Do you think there are any contractors (especially retired Hydro re-treads) who DO NOT bill at least $100 per hour? and they attend staff meetings designed to keep them hap-hap-happy?
    I rest my case.

    Mighty Mo

  9. How can they charge $20 or $35 per month to read meters, with my existing old meter they don't even read it every month, and often rely on sometimes wildly inaccurate estimates, in which case I often remit based on my estimate (or reading of the meter). So will they bill monthly for reading then send a guy out every two or three months?

    We all know, or should know it is the IPP commitments and government dipping into BC Hydro revenue that is responsible for the humongous debt at BC Hydro and need for rates to be raised. After all you can only buy high from your friends and sell low to the grid so long. These guys could figure out how to game a lemonade stand to help their cronies and lose millions while doing it.

  10. Mr. Farrel, I have been reading your blog for a few years now and fully agree with you most of the time, including here in this article. I do however find the graphs you have used to be misleading. in the top of the 2 graphs 2.5 billion is used as the starting point and in the bottom 1.5 billion, which makes the rise in rates look much more severe than they are.

    I would point out that when Colin Hansen tried that same thing in an attempt to save Gordon Campbell he was berated for submitting documents to the public that would not get a passing grade in high school.

    imho there is no need to mislead the public to enforce the fact that the BC Liberals are extremely poor money managers and should not be in office.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      Each chart stands on its own. The first chart emphasizes the rate of change that has occurred in the last five years. It's not misleading to emphasize that the recent rate of change is substantial. In 10 years (2000 to 2009), the average annual revenue increase was $53.6 million. In four years (2009-2013), the average increase was almost six times as much, $306 million a year. I wanted to demonstrate that recent increases are not anomalies; they established a whole new trend line.

      The second chart was included specifically to avoid misrepresentation and give a long term view. I believe readers here are not misled because the axis labels are clear.

  11. This morning CBC radio was talking about Hydro rate increases. No mention of the cost of IPP power, or the cost of the "smart grid".

    In 2002 there was a Class Action suit against BC Hydro over the Accenture privatization deal. The BC Govt got around that by making the BC Hydro/Accenture agreement exempt from common law. Great, huh.

  12. Something really wrong with "changing laws to suit the occasion".

    The voting public, has to get a handle, on what is really going on in politics in this country. Pro government parties, are dismantling, public utilities and other forms of revenue generating services and privatising them for "special interests".

    This nonsense has to end. We, the voter are being placed into a corner. Ways must be found to rein in malfeasance and manipulation, by all forms of governance.

    Simply put, we are becoming servants of the few, in our own country.

  13. One wonders if the $750,000,000.00 "fine" BC Hydro is on the hook for due to the "Powerex" Out of Court settlement re the BC Hydro Powex price manipulation 10 years ago is part of this obscene fiscal rape of the BC Taxpayer.
    Who was in charge of Hydro 10 years ago? What sort of bonuses did they recieve? Were they complicit in the Powerex price manipulation? Can we recoup the "bonus' cash plus interest?
    Even if the cash is a paltry amount compared to the fine it sends a message to these scum. We will come for you, perhaps not now but....we will recoup unjustified "bonuses" plus interest.

    Gee and all this wonderful news "leaked" when 4 months after the election and when the govt isnt "sitting". How convienient.

    1. The writing has been on the wall regarding the huge settlement for a long period of time. It's been under final negotiation since well before the election.

      That was known to members of the press gallery but they couldn't bother to report the process or its likely outcome.

      That displays an inherent problem with Fazil Mihlar, for years a senior editor of the Vancouver Sun, moving into an ADM position with the BC Liberals. He might not have been welcomed into the comfortable ranks of government apparatchiks had the Vancouver Sun not been a long term protector of the BC Liberals.

      In this province, people move seamlessly back and forth between media and industry into Liberal Government employ. Can anyone remember the uproar when former union official Jan O'Brien was appointed by the NDP as vice-chair of British Columbia Labour Relations Board? Chamber of Commerce head John Winter complained loudly and Phil Hochstein suffered a furious conniption.

      They're OK when one of theirs is appointed to a senior administrative position.

  14. I have followed tis site and used their documentation successfully. A new letter is posted as of Sept 14/2013, to use, along with instructions.,2,3397

    I was thinking to myself that if anyone is on an equal payment plan with Hydro, then there should be absolutely no reason for them to even suggest a monthly fee! Once a year, at the very, very most! What would happen if all smart meter "refusers" were on equal payment plans?

  15. We had a fuse blow on our street. Knocked out power at 7:30. We all thought that since there were smart meters on the street, BC Hydro would be on scene in an hour or so.
    I called the outage line at 9:30. They informed me that they had no calls on this(except mine, I reminded them)and therefore did not know the power was off. When I asked about Smart meters notifying them, the person said, "Just because there is no contact with the meter, does not mean there is an outage.
    So, much for the main reason for SM! It is bogus that they immediately identify outages.

    Who would have thought?

    1. The claim that smart meters would result in faster response to outages always sounded like something that came from a brainstorming session in one of the PR agencies employed by BC Hydro. As if outages not recognized by anyone was a problem that needed a billion dollars solution. Right....

    2. Yes, some of the rationales used to justify Smartmeters are preposterous. Affirming power outages is one of the lamest ones. I don't think anyone will stop phoning in outage reports even if the system could be flawlessly automated, if only to find out why the power isn't on yet.

      Yes, it's infuriating to hear the BC Liberals lie through their teeth and know all the while everybody knows it's a lie. This government of self-licensing parasites seems to laughingly presume there is no knife sharp enough to cut through this obvious bullshit. Everybody knows Smartmeters are primarily a trick-shot set up to get deep into our pockets (it's Gordon Campbell's insidious legacy that Smartmeters also reward insider friends to juicy installation contracts while contributing to the longterm goal of bankrupting BC Hydro in preparation for fire-sale to party donors).

      The hubs that receive the microwave signal from functioning Smartmeters have not all been installed yet. I always questioned the physics involved with rural customers who seem to need one hub per Smartmeter, distances exceeding transmission range---and what about heavily timbered areas? Range and reception is definitely diminished by trees. Despite microwave towers springing up all over the place, there are still cellphone dead-zones around here: too many tree-covered hills.

      I have a document from BC Hydro that claims the system will not work at all without every single customer converting to Smartmeters. I guess the sixty thousand plus customers who successfully prevented a Smartmeter from being installed put paid to another lie. How many lies does it take to have the charge of fraud prosecuted in court. These guys are trying to rip me off and I think I can prove it.

      What I want to know is if class actions already in application will be affected by the pending BCUC hearing required before these punishing "fees" can be approved.

    3. "Yes, it's infuriating to hear the BC Liberals lie through their teeth and know all the while everybody knows it's a lie."

      Sadly, the media hacks who claim to be pundits, know we're being lied to continuously. They're ok with that and anyone who says different is attacked. I've pointed out publicly that some broadcasters fail to live up to the integrity standard of their own association, the RTDNA. For that and more, Keith Baldrey called me juvenile, an ideologue and a bigot. Check out his 9/13 twitter feed for the whole tantrum.

      Baldrey also wrote that Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight was promoting hate. Maybe there's an old problem there because Charlie once suggested that Press Gallery members ought to disclose who, besides their media employers, was paying them money. Keith, Vaughn and a few others didn't take kindly to that suggestion.

  16. Yes , the game is being played, the public is the " mark." This type of "strategy" is becoming more and more recognized, in the political sphere, as a way to manipulate the public, without direct questioning or confrontation. Whether you perogue Parliament, or just not bother to open the legislature, in order to face the obvious public backlash, is simply to avoid being put into a position of defending a decision of dubious
    Political motive.

    More and more we see, corpratist based governance relying on what can only be described as "deviate" politically motivated, alternatives to the system, as it currently exists.

    The public and or opposition, must get "creative", and realize that governance is" morphing" into something of a non accountable, organization, that does not serve the public, but it's own self or "corpratist" interests.

    This is not the way our system was designed to work, what is occurring is economic and social subversion. The public, has no real way to stop this. Indeed, class action lawsuits against political parties, for decisions they make while in power, have to be explored, as well as other legal "remedies", in order to reverse this trend in all forms of governance.

  17. Here is the letter I'm sending our power provider;

    Dear BC Hydro Executive Team,

    Thank you for the “offer I can’t refuse” received on Friday, suggesting I pay you $35.00 a month to retain my perfectly good “Made in Canada” electricity meter rather than having it replaced by a new “Made in Mexico” version. At 45% of my typical bill this seems a little excessive. However I’m quite ready to pay up, with one proviso.

    The true cost of the new meters is reckoned to be at least one billion and counting, obviously I did not play a part in that and would therefore appreciate an appropriate discount. In addition I did not vote for the IPP run of river fiasco which is costing you even more, nor would I under any circumstances have countenanced greedily exploiting our American neighbours’ power problems a few years ago, for which you are paying out a substantial fine. The cost of these and other monumental wastes of money should be carried by the political and corporate insiders who took the decisions, the bonuses, and the profit.

    Using a standard of arithmetic of similar quality to your own I find that by an amazing coincidence the discount you should give me is $35.00 a month, which makes us even. I realise you may not agree with my methodology, and you’re certainly paid more than me, but then when it comes to credibility which of us took a rock solid Crown Corporation providing the cheapest electricity in North America and turned it into a rate gouging financial basket case in little more than a decade?

    Yours sincerely, etc.

    Of course, without the corporate power to bully and coerce this is whistling in the wind.

    My grandfather was the chairman of the Electricity Board in the UK. When I contrast his ethos of public service and accountability with the current crop both here and there it is enough to make one despair.



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