Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A reader comments

I've been reporting information taken from annual and quarterly reports of BC Hydro. There are important economic issues and billions of dollars at stake and the people who benefit from the way BC Hydro operates are many, some of them influential. Corporate media does not cover these issues. Perhaps the reasons are obvious.

We know that BC Hydro has committed to buy electricity worth more than $60 billion, at prices far above market, from independent power producers (IPPs). We also know that many well-connected individuals earned large profits by arranging and then flipping contracts to supply BC Hydro. It is also clear that BC Hydro is selling power to industrial users for about half the cost it faces to acquire new power. Many of the beneficiaries of cheap power are generous contributors to the BC Liberal Party.

We also know that, despite a decade of flat domestic demand for power, BC Hydro is committed now to spending over $10 billion to expand generation capacity. IPPs also continue to expand, disrupting new areas of precious wilderness, even though power is unneeded.

Residential and commercial users pay substantially more for the electricity they consume to to allow industrial users to pay less and IPPs to be unaffected by free market prices.

I don't object to using public funds and institutions for legitimate economic objectives but the efforts should be transparent and the people involved should be fully accountable. That's not happening now in British Columbia and, as citizens, we should be asking why.

A reader named Les left this comment on the preceding article and I think it is worth highlighting because it demonstrates that a thorough independent examination of BC Hydro is overdue.
As long as I can remember, one justification for lower prices to industry was their large use of power. The idea was to take lower revenue on each kilowatt hour but earn more revenue through larger volume.

I also remember the old business joke about selling shovels for less than each cost, but hoping to make up for the loss through volume.

Even the Liberals aren't that stupid so the explanation of their energy policy is something else.

It is simple economics. The Government wants to subsidize businesses that are heavy users of power but they don't want to do it openly where the values and justifications of subsidies can be examined. Were the businesses in need? Were all B.C. businesses treated with equal fairness? Were jobs produced and communities preserved? Was tax revenue generated? Was business assistance for a limited time or permanent?

There is another old rule of politics: when you do something good, you tell everything to the world; when you do something bad, you hide all details.

I believe that reasonable people can readily determine what's going on in B.C.
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18 comments:

  1. This reader sums it up on the why. The problem we have in this province is these issues never see the MSM. The presstitutes -( the term coined by Gerald Celente of Trends Research} - will never touch the painful truth.
    Paul Craig Roberts went into this issue in detail. In one sentence it is roughly as follows. The mostly neo-con corporate media frames the issues and questions to there captive market. The only chance we have for change in this backward banana republic we call BC is for the governing corporate party to self destruct. But then we have to count on the NDP running a competent campaign. As we know there was a chance for change in the last provincial election but it was squandered.

    Robert from Richmond

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  2. Les makes some very astute observations; none more accurate than his last sentence.

    The problem is that there are many reasonable people in BC who get their news and information solely from the traditional media. And they are therefore unaware of the BC Liberals’ rape and pillage routine in general and the BC Hydro scheme in particular.

    I regularly encounter people who are completely unaware for example of the information Norm presents here, or that the CEO of BC Hydro had absolutely no experience running a large public utility before being appointed to the position. They are also surprised to learn that she was Gordon Campbell’s right-hand woman for years, and that her husband is described by Christy Clark as “one of my oldest friends”, was the co-chair and manager of her leadership campaign and subsequently her chief of staff.

    Just as surprising to some is the fact the recently appointed Chair of BC Hydro’s Board of Directors is Brad Bennett, a longtime BC Liberal supporter and co-chair of the last BC Liberal election planning committee. He also chairs Quails Gate Estate Winery, the family business of Ben Stewart, the MLA who gave up his seat so Christy Clark could run in that safe seat after she was defeated in her own riding. Ben was rewarded with an appointment as BC Special Representative in Asia, based in Beijing.

    The BC Liberals rely on these appointments because it is extremely unlikely that any unconnected professional credentialed to run a major public utility would participate in steering BC Hydro along its present path. They also need and currently enjoy a co-opted press, to prevent reasonable people from the facts needed for reasoned electoral judgments.

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  3. Both comments are "right on the money". The propaganda supplier for the BC Liberals, the MSM is nothing but a "co-opted" misinformation, service, complete with a self serving"cheering section"of corporate friends of the party. The reporters, or "presstitutes" of these organizations are nothing but cheerleaders for the malfeasants in the party.
    A way must be found to engage the voter, and taxpayer and identify the "real truths" that are being "hidden" by the MSM and its "minions". Norms "politically and potentially damning", research and evaluation, of the BC Liberal fiscal and political mismanagement of provincial resource revenues, and other fiscal horror stories, must be made widely available. Perhaps the NDP's communication office could be "encouraged" to look some of the extensive material over, and begin to compile a "truthful" campaign, identifying key area's and focal points. These points if utilized on social media, key internet and specific, on partisan news sources, could turn the tide. Ways and means must be found to ignore the co-opted MSM outlets, and provide the truth to voters, that are being kept in the dark, and uninformed.
    An early start is key. Before the Liberal "con" game begins in earnest, prior to 2017.

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  4. If we are to reduce CO2 emissions, we must increase our supply of electrical energy to assist that transition. The problem is BC Hydro has no inclination to undertake this task in a fiscally responsible way.

    British Columbia desperately needs a public commission on our energy future.

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  5. "Perhaps the reasons are obvious."

    As years go by since the first Campbell round of IPP hydro projects slipped under the radar, the above quote resonates. I challenge corporate media employees to formally refute the perception that poor reporting on the folly of most of these projects is not benefiting them financially. We already know it has benefitted a lot of senior government bureaucrats who are now working in the private sector, after paving the way for approvals.

    The alpine lake draining Narrows Inlet IPP on the Sunshine Coast finally got conditional approval (initial application was in 2008!....it took a while as it is such a risky project), then was flipped to Alberta based BluEarth Renewables to finish off. Finishing off is going very well for them with a recent poorly advertised EAO public comment period of only 14 days, an upcoming Sunshine Coast Regional District public hearing for rezoning that appears to have little resistance from voting directors, current (no pun intended) very short period of comment time opened by the MFLNRO for public input on the water license application, etc etc.

    Once the SCRD approves rezoning this Jan 19 and the Ministry of Forests and Lands rubber stamps the water licenses Jan 29, good to go. Site C is being built, yet Bennett is still approving IPP’s. He will bankrupt us. He purports to be concerned about the pocketbook of regular British Columbians? Ha! Not only is this one not even finished final design yet, there are 13 more planned for Jervis/Princess Louisa Inlets, also in the SCRD! Just who benefits Norm asks? Very, very few people. Not one iota of GHG will be eliminated. We are locked in to paying for electricity we do not need for a price we cannot afford. Does no one in this government think more than a year or two after their retirement date? How can we pay for Site C AND all these new IPP’s?? It’s not like they can produce power when our heritage facilities cannot.

    If you draw a line from Harrison Lake to Bute Inlet the only watershed not impacted is Narrows Inlet, now it will be too. There is not a lake, river, or fjord you will be able to visit without being assaulted by alien structures in the form of powerlines, penstocks and powerhouses.

    These are not small footprint “green” projects like our “professional” media would have you believe. Just look at some of the construction photos. We simply cannot alter the natural flow regimes of so many creeks and rivers, never mind draining alpine lakes, in such a small geographic area as the South Coast without consequence.

    Though electricity may be clean, the way we make it, transmit it and store it most certainly is not being considered. What does building more hydro IPP’s do for a plan to diversify method of electricity production? Especially if we have another couple of dry years.

    What are any of these projects doing that we could not achieve by increasing efficiencies and conservation? Yeah, I know….can’t conserve enough residentially to have enough left over to compress natural gas so it can be shipped across the ocean on a fossil fuel powered tanker. What a waste of energy that is.

    Come on “professional” journalists, explain yourselves and back it up with figures. I will hold your graphs up to the light in the library with Norms behind them and see what lines up with what. Don’t you ever leave the city to see what is happening to our irreplaceable wilderness areas? Go stand in the middle of an IPP construction zone with the cameras rolling and say your favourite line “see, nothing happening here, move along”.

    I haven’t even got into the legions of public service workers in the communications departments of all our Ministries (not just energy related) busily rewriting articles to slant in the Liberals favour….and actually believing in what they are doing! How did we get here Norm?

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  6. Hi Norm. It is Rare I write any more. Lew and others are much better in telling a deceptive story. I Learned from the Last Election, tell All of the Bad Things, Then the people forget.

    They write with a agenda pen. They work with the very ones, they write about. You Norm are being infiltrated. By Assholes.

    Careful. And Be Well. Mr.

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  7. Can we not get shows like W5 or market place or programs on tv to bring this type of bull shit to the forfront. This would be away of showing how globle and others are in bed with the liberal hookers in BC. How they feed off each other, and screw the little people into paying for everything. There has to be one honest news reporter in this country who would jump at the chance to break this story. I know there isn't any in BC so lets go Canada wide. Could you see Peter Manbridge with a one hour program about this. Could you forward a copy of all your facts and figures to these programs and see if anyone is honest enough to take this on. God there has to be someone thats not being payed off in public brodcasting. Norm I beg of you, for our sakes. By the way thank you for doing all the digging up of all this information.

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  8. Happened upon this as I was driving home last night. I think it's worth a listen:
    http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/it-s-the-economists-stupid-1.3219471

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  9. RS, I happened to hear parts of that interview as well. I hear a lot of inconvenient truths on CBC radio… (which is possibly why the Harperists wanted it canned.)

    I later found the whole interview on their website. For those who can't afford the time to listen to the whole show, I'd say go for the part from 19:00 minutes to 27:00, when Australian "Whistleblower economist" Richard Denniss is talking about the misinformation spouted by big Australian mining companies and how lack of tax collection leads to cutting of services. Australia is apparently 10 years ahead of us in learning how to deal with dishonest corporate schemes.

    Some snippets:

    18:00 "The mining industry employs about 2% of Australians. Obviously, that means that 98% of our workforce doesn't work in mining. But when we survey Australians, they think 5x as many people work in mining as really do.

    "And a lot of those (mining) profits are used to convince the public. They run very big public relations campaigns… full page advertisements in our newspapers, expensive television ads — effectively telling us that what's good for mining is good for the Australian economy.

    "So, Australians aren't stupid; they've been deliberately misled. They've been told that mining accounts for a lot of their jobs when in reality, it doesn't. They've been told that most of our taxes are being paid by the mining companies, when in our largest state, New South Wales, the state gets as much from car registrations and speeding fines as it gets in royalties and taxes from the mining companies."

    At 21:00, Denniss talks about Rio Tinto wanting to extend a coal mine, which would create "44,000 jobs" The case went to court and Denniss was brought in as a witness against the mine extension. The court agreed that the 44,000 claim was ridiculous and turned down the application. Meanwhile, the public dissenters were painted as the enemy.

    At 22:40, Denniss brings up the input-output modelling and multiplier effects used in the promotion of the Canada's Energy East pipeline proposal. "$36 billion in economic benefits and 3,000 jobs."

    "To put it bluntly, if that claim were made in Australian court 10 years ago, people would have believed it — but if that claim were made in an Australian court today, it would be thrown out."

    We need to get up to speed — and we're approaching the onramp to the 2017 election.

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  10. The MSM will not turn on Christy and her cabal.

    What goes on at hydro is sort of like a printing press for money to be enjoyed by the B.C. Lieberals and their friends.

    Nothing is going to change in this province. There are 4 dead kids in care and the report came down to the child advocate issues too many recommendations. We have had the highest rate of child poverty in Canada for 15 year and no poverty reduction plan. There isn't a bus on the Highway of Tears because Christy says she can't afford the $250K a year. She wants to double the killing of grizzlies, She tolls people trying to get to work. Now if that isn't enough to get people to do something I don't know what is.

    But then you look at surrey with all their crime and still they re-elected the same group and kept the same RCMP ceo. it doesn't make sense to me.

    All I can figure out is, if people admit there is a problem, then they'd have to do something about it. They aren't ready to do that. I would suggest the voters of this province won't do anything until they find out one day they don't have ANY HEALTH CARE and 10 kids a month are dying because of a lack of government action and protection.

    Now granted the NDP isn't given much press coverage by the MSM but they have been a tad lax about their work in getting a message out to the public. They have an obligation to tell the public about what is going on. They are supposed to oppose. That goes for the Greens also.

    Nothing is going to change in this province unless perhaps the international/national media starts to take an interest because one of their friends didn't get in on the action. At least in Alberta when they thought their provincial government had gotten to sleazy they voted them out of office. of course Notley used Gerry Scott to run her election campaign, something the B.C. NDPers were too stupid to do. They hired some eastern firm.

    Perhaps some financial report will declare us officially the new Detroit North.

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  11. This topic is being discussed on blogs. the MSM won't touch it. it was the same with the increases to MSP.

    This evening I received a petition via change.org asking the government to remove the MSP. it already had 8K signatures. The Change.org mailing list is extensive, all over North America. it might be an idea to start one regarding B.C. Hydro, i.e. stopping Site C, A petition insisting on B.C. Hydro being run as a business a petition to reduce electrical rates to those of 2013 and no increases. that no increases be implemented just because the government buys electricity and sells it for half the price to business, expecting the residential market to pick up the rest of the mess.

    If nothing else these petitions will get information out to a larger number of people than those who read blogs.

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    Replies
    1. In 2013 the Vancouver sun reported hydro rate increases of 45% over 10 years, that's if Site C were NOT built:

      Quote:
      "That adds up to about a 45-per-cent increase over the next decade, when the increases are compounded."

      http://www.vancouversun.com/news/hydro+rates+head+skyward+province+unveils+year+plan/9214594/story.html

      In 2015 desmog Blog quoted former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen saying, with the Site C dam, hydro rate payers would face rate increases of 30-40% over the next 3 years:

      http://www.desmog.ca/2015/08/04/exclusive-site-c-dam-devastating-british-columbians-says-former-ceo-bc-hydro

      Delete
  12. e.a.f., Keith Baldrey gives us a glimmer of hope that there is a social conscious lurking atop his keyboard:

    "The MSP premiums are arguably the most regressive tax in the country, and they have become so precisely because they have become so expensive. When they were less than $40 a month, they had nowhere near the financial impact they have now on people earning middle to low incomes.

    Is it finally time to tie MSP premiums to income levels, as both Ontario and Quebec do when it comes to health fees? Why should someone scraping by on $30,500 a year pay the same monthly rate as someone who makes $100,000 a year?"

    See http://globalnews.ca/news/2436877/why-its-time-to-tie-msp-premium-rates-to-income-levels/

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  13. I kept the letter I got from BC Hydro in 2012 about the new Smart Meters. It says the new meters will help us enjoy "more affordable power". How's that working out?

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    Replies
    1. Smart meters were also going to assist BC Hydro identify and repair electricity outages. Didn't seem to help with recent major outages that left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark.

      One potential justification for smart meters was time-of-use billing rates but with a growing surplus of electricity, that will be hard to sell to citizens of BC.

      So, I guess the only thing remaining is that smart meters allowed favoured contractors to earn hundreds of millions in revenues that they would not otherwise have enjoyed. That's an achievement that BC Liberals enjoy.

      Delete
  14. I am convinced that the Liberals want desperately to run Hydro into so much debt that they will be able to justify selling off the Crown Corporation (a la BC Rail)citing that it is 'losing money'. Of course, BC taxpayers will still be on the hook for all the IPP obligations, and the new owner will reap all the benefits.

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    Replies
    1. Probably Campbell's original plan, but he got headed off at the pass. The smart meters make it possible to parcel the residential customers into marketable lots and sell off to more than one crony. Might still happen if too much light is focused on the IPP scam. With no BCUC oversight, anything the BC Liberals think they can manoeuvre electorally is possible. So far the sky appears to be the limit.

      Delete
  15. Given all the problems with the b.c. Lieberals and the doubling of the grizzley kill I'm still amazed no one has started a re call petition.

    My heart be still keith actually wrote that????? It not that I don't believe you, but really he wrote that. Must have had a fall or been struck by lighting.

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