Blog

BC Hydro Expands Deferral Accounts to Insulate Profit From Market Vagaries

In recent years BC Hydro has been adding more regulatory/deferral accounts. This Commentary suggests that the predominant reason is to insulate the government-mandated profit target.

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Rationing Scarce Clean Electricity: Who Decides?

Are the government’s objectives of dramatically reduced emissions, economic development and affordable electricity rates irreconcilable? Will the provincial government be forced to ration the supply of clean electricity? These questions are raised in the attached Commentary.

 

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Hydro-Quebec Opts for Public Ownership of Large New Wind Farms

The Quebec government has decided that large new wind farm energy projects will be owned by Hydro-Quebec, rather than private power producers. Will BC follow suit?

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Why to Production of Green Hydrogen is a Waste of Our Limited Renewable Electricity

The BC government has been championing the production of green hydrogen as a method to achieve its CleanBC emission targets. Given the technical problems with this process, this promotion is unwarranted.

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Drought Conditions in the Pacific Northwest Demonstrate the Benefit of a Diversified Enery Mix

The attached reproduces an interesting survey of the effects of the drought on the energy supply in the US Pacific northwest. Are there lessons for BC?

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Comparing Provincial Electricity and Natural Gas Supply and Sales

This paper reviews the supply of electricity and the GWh equivalent produced by natural gas for the 2022/23 fiscal year. It demonstrates the importance of natural gas to the province’s economy.

 

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Replacing Natural Gas with Clean Electricity is Unrealistic

A number of environmental groups have called on the government to end the use of natural gas in residential and commercial buildings by 2035. Clean electricity would replace the natural gas. This paper shows that such a proposition is not feasible.

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Media Interviews by Richard McCandless as of 8 May 2024.

Links to media interviews.

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BC Hydro's 24/25 Budget Discounts Drought Warnings

This paper reviews BC Hydro's financail forecast for the current year-end, as well as the key budget assumptions for the coming year. The water inflows and revenues for 2024/25 may be optimistic.

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Government Again Politicizes BC Hydro's Finances

The latest rebate ordered by the BC government again politicizes BC Hydro's finances. Note; I subsequently was informed that the government will fund $30 million of the $370 million cost to cover those customers who do not receive power indirectly from BC Hydro via their own utility.

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Manitoba Government Fires Hydro CEO

The NDP government fired the CEO of Manitoba Hydro over the question of the utility's power procurement. Many similaris facing the future power demand in Manitoba also confront the BC government.

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A Closer Look at the Rush to Hydrogen Gas

An article that questions the rush to produce green hydrogen to reduce CO2 emissions.

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Accumulated Trade Profits Moderate Large BC Hydro Rate Increases.

BC Hydro intends to use its accumulated Trade surplus to moderate rate volatiltity during the next few years buy smoothing at 2.3 per cent.

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Imported Electricity Negatively Affects BC Hydro's Finances and Lowers Ratio of Clean Power

Drought conditions are having a major impact on BC Hydro's finances, as well as forcing the importation of fossil fuel generated electricity.

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Low Water Has Had a Negative Impact on Crown Hydroelectric Utilities

Manitoba Hydro and Hydro Quebec have seen their export revenues curtailed due to low water conditions thsi year.

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Drought Hammers BC Hydro's Six Month Results

Serious drought effects have had a profound effect on BC Hydro's first half financial results.

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Pre-Election Posturing: Will the Carbon Tax Subsidize BC Hydro Rates?

Recently, Premier Eby said that the 2024/25 budget may include a carbon tax rebate funded through BC Hydro. This paper has a closer look.

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Will BC Hydro Use Columbia River Treaty Power to Meet Some of the Demand for Clean Power?

This paper reviews the possible use of some of the Canadian Entitlement under the Columbia River Treaty to address some of the growing demand for clean electricity. Note: The BC government sells the CRT benefits to Powerex, which then resells to the Americans (Bonneville Power), with profits being reported via BC Hydro.

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Low Water Inflows Could Add Significant Cost to BC Hydro's Plans to Expand its Clean Grid

A drier and warmer future poses significant risk for BC Hydro's generating capacity to meet future needs with clean and affordable electricity.

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BC Hydro Does Not Have Enough Electricity to Power Proposed Green Hydrogen Projects

Recent announcements of large planned green hydrogen production plants near Prince George depend on hydroelectricity that BC Hydro does not have. See also https://biv.com/article/2023/09/mines-power-fossil-fuels-major-balancing-act-energy-minister 

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BC Hydro Selected Five-Year Statistics 2017/18 to 2022/23.

Occasional Paper No, 91 provides a five-year review of certain BC Hydro key indicators and is intended for reference purposes.

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BC Hydro's Positive 2022/23 Results Powered by Trade Income and Lower Energy Costs

BC Hydro achieved a strong financial performance in 2022/23, led by majpr gains in Trade income and lower energy costs.

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Ensuring A Clean Electricity Future Will Be Difficult And Expensive

Some commentors and environmental advocates have suggested that BC has almost achieved the target of a clean electrical grid. The attached paper suggests that meeting future demand for a clean power grid will be difficult and expensive.

 

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BC Hydro's New Resource Plan Forecast

BC Hydro has advanced the timeline to acquire new clean electricity. This paper has a closer look and the possible implicatons.

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Auditor General Forces BC Government to Backtrack on New Customer Deferral Accounting

Recent comments by Auditor General Michael Pickup suggest that the government cannot continue to freely issue directives to the BC Utilites Commission respecting BC Hydro's finances.

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Will Recent LNG Proposals Wither for Lack of Clean Electricity?

Will the lack of clean electricity to meet the government's net zero target doom the new LNG projects that are queing for approval?

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BC Hydro's Positive Third Quarter Results

BC Hydro reported a strong nine months primarily due to the effect of interest rate increases nd a jump in Trade income. 

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Hydro Quebec Reports Record 2022 Sales and Profits

Hydro Quebec reported record sales and profits in calendar year 2022, mainly driven by high export prices and a cold winter.

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Nelson Bennett Government Use of ICBC and BC Hydro Funds

Nelson Bennett's 28 December 2022 article in Business in Vancouver.

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New Bill Rebate Further Politicizes BC Hydro's Finances

By ordering the Utilities Commission to approve BC Hydro’s new rebate regulatory account the government continues to substitute political imperatives for the economic-based rate setting oversight provided by the once independent regulator.

 

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Estimating the Cost of the Newly Announced BC Hydro Rebate

Premier Eby announced a credit/rebate but no total cost or funding plan was make public. This paper provides an estimate, and discusses two funding approaches.

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Some Aspects of the Brad Wall Review of Biopole III and Keeyask

The report highlights the weaknesses in planning, project management and accountability. There are many parrallels to the Site C project.

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BC Hydro Five-Year Statistics 2016/17 to 2021/22

A five-year statistical summary of BC Hydro's finances.

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Quantifying BC Hydro's Domestic Electricity Surplus

BC Hydro no longer reports its Domestic electricity surplus or deficit, but it is possble to determine the annual totals from the service data in its annual reports. The over capacity in generation has costs for ratepayers.

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BC Hydro's 2021/22 Annual Report.

Occasional Paper 83 summarizes the key aspects of BC Hydro's 2021/22 annual report, which was released some three weeks ago.

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BC Hydro Extends Island Generation IPP Contract

BC Hydro has extended the IPP contract for 4.5 years to maintain grid reliability.

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BC Cabinet Again Restricts Independence of Regulator: Will the Auditor General React?

A new directive reinforces the government's unwillingness to fulfill its 2018 promise to enhance the independence of the BC Utilities Commission regardsin BC Hydro's finances and rates.

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Government Reneges on Promise to Allow BC Hydro's Regulator Full Independence

A new cabinet order negates the previous commitment to restore full independence to the BC Utilities Commission to regulate BC Hydro. Will the auditor general again qualify the government's financial statements?

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BC Hydro Watchdog Voluntarily Muzzels Itself.

In a recent decision the BC Utilities Commission gave notice that it will regulate BC Hydro rates using an incentive sytem. This despite the warnings of BC Hydro and most of the consumer groups that such a system would not be effective for the Crown utility, and would reduce public accountability.

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BC Hydro Revives Speculation on Future Interest Rates

In light of anticipated higher interest rates BC Hydro has re-instituted its hedging program. Better luck this time? 

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BC Hydro's Second Quarter Report Reflects Strengthening Economy.

After six months BC Hydro's finances show improvements from the prior year, partly due to improved economic activity.

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Will the Old Growth Logging Restriction Result in Higher Cost Electricity?

The government's plan to restrict old growth logging could have a significant effect on BC Hydro's sales and rates.

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Ontario's Electricity Subsidies

New reports by Ontario's Financial Accountability Office provide a useful overview of the effect of the taxpayer subsidies on the price of electricity in that province. Update with Globe and Mail editorial https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/article-the-hydro-subsidy-washing-machine-keeps-spinning-in-ontario/ 

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Operating Losses Could Add Another $5.5 Billionto the Cost of Site C.

To date, most of the discussion of the cost of the Site C project has focussed on the total cost. Occasional Paper No. 77 estimates the operating losses over the first fifteen years could total $5.5 billion. Some funding options are also discussed.

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Providing BC Hydro's Regulator with Broader Discretion in Pricing Electricity is Highly Problematic.

Should the BC Utilities Commission be broadened to address social policy issues? This paper says this would be highly problematic.

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Cost of the Site C Dam Project Slowly Emerging

In a recent filing with the regulator, BC Hydro is slowly disclosing details on the cost of the Site C dam project. The impact on customer rates has yet to be disclosed.

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Manitoba Government Arbitrarily Raises Manitoba Hydro Rates by 2.5 Per Cent

The government of Manitoba has decided to increase Manitoba Hydro rates by 2.5% per year for the next three years. This has resulted in less transparency and accountibility.

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BC Hydro's 2020/21 Annual Report: Surplus Sales Partly Offset Decline in Domestic Sales

Occasional Paper No. 76 discusses the highlights of BC Hydro's recently released 2020/21 annual reportt, including the growing mis-match between Domestic power generation and sales.

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Government Blocks Possible Reduction in BC Hydro's Excessive Profits

A recent cabinet order has blocked any attempt by the BC Utilities Commission to lower BC Hydro's excessive profits. This is another example of the government's manipulation of the utility and the BC Utilities Commission.

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Ontario Expands Taxpayer Subsidy of Electricity Rates

Recently, the Ontario government expanded its program of subsidizing the price of electricity for residential and smaller commercial customers to include larger commercial and industrial users. Given the likely operating losses of Site C, will the BC government also subsidize BC Hydro's rates when this project is operational?

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BC Hydro Seeks to Delay Cut to Profit

Part way into the BC Utilities Commission's review of its 2022 rate request BC Hydro has asked that any decrease to its net income be delayed. This paper reviews the situation.

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Manitoba Joins Quebec in Muzzling Hydro Regulator

The Manitoba government has sidelined the province's regulator of Manitoba Hydro, and legislated a 2.9% rate increase for the coming year. This action mirrors that of Quebec, which also "simplified" rate setting by eliminating the regulator for five years. Is there a trend?

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The BC Government Should Reduce BC Hydro's Excess Profits

This paper reviews how the BC government manipulated the rate-setting process to produce a high return on equity at BC Hydro. It's time to eliminate the excess profits to help stimulate the economy.

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Has BC Hydro Ended its Ill-Conceived Gamble on Interest Rates?

A recent report suggests that BC Hydro is winding down its costly interest rate hedging program. This paper updates earlier commentaries.

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BC Hydro Quietly Releases Its Second Quarter Financial Report

This Commentary reviews the highlights of  the first six months of BC Hydro's 2020/21 fiscal year, including the effect of COVID-19 and lower interest rates.

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Should the Taxpayer Pick Up the Tab for Site C?

This paper argues that the net losses for Site C (whether it proceeds or is cancelled) should be covered by the taxpayer rether than expecting the ratepayers to pay the cost by increasing the cost of domestic power sold.

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BC Hydro Five Year Statistics 2015 to 2020.

Occasional Paper No. 73 provides a summary of changes in a number of BC Hydro's key financial and service measures for the last five years.

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Losses on BC Hydro's Interest Rate Hedging Gamble Now Exceed $1.0 Billion.

BC Hydro's first quarter report to June 30th shows that the losses on the hedging gamble have now reached an astonishing $1.0 billion. This paper reviews the hedging program, and how the losses will prevent ratepayers from benefiting from lower borrowing costs. See also  

https://thetyee.ca/News/2020/10/07/BC-Hydro-Bets-Interest-Rates/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=071020 

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Ben Parfitt Site C's Radical, Risky Makeover.

The Tyee of September 11, 2020, published Ben Parfitt's commentary on the geological and other risks associated with the current constructon of the Site C dam.

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BC Hydro's 2019/20 Annual Report: Domestic Sales Continue to Decline but High Profit Assured by Reliance on Regulatory Accounting.

Occasional Paper No. 72 reviews BC Hydro's financial and operational results for 2019/20. Once again, the reliance on regulatory accounting to defer expenditures assured a high net income.

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Low Interest Rates Bad News for ICBC's and BC Hydro's Balance Sheets

The prospect of continuing low interest rates will place further strain on the financial statements of ICBC and BC Hydro. The poor financial health could twart government attempts to lower insurace rates or provide cheaper electricity.

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Fact Check--BC Hydro Claims Strong Finances

BC Hydro released a report that claims its strong financial position despite a dramatic drop in sales. This is not true; its has high debt and relies on deferral costs and recording unearned revenue to produce a high profit.

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Recording Unearned Revenue Inocuates BC Hydro's Profit From COVID-19.

BC Hydro's net income is protected against any reduction in revenue by the public utility's recording of unearned revenue in a deferral account. The resulting increse in debt is a liability for future generations.

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Why Not Cut BC Hydro Rates?

This paper argues that the governent should reduce BC Hydro's profit (net income) target by 50 percent to provide $350 million in direct relief to BC residents and businesses.

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Saskatchewan Reducing Reliance on Coal to Generate Electricity

The attached paper discusses the Saskatchewan government's and SaskPower's moves to reduce the dependence on coal to generate electricity. Certain financial comparisons of SaskPower and BC Hydro are also discussed.

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BC Hydro Reports Six Month Loss of $611 Million; Deferring Loss Results in a Small Surplus

On 29 November 2019, BC Hydro released disappointing results for April to September 2019. Transfers to regulatory accounts converted an initial operating loss of $611 million to a $25 million profit. Losses from hedging future interest rates remain a concern.

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B.C. Hydro Loses $560 Million in Fifteen Months on Interest Rate Hedging Gamble.

B.C. Hydro's interest rate hedging program incurred dramatic losses from April 2018 to June 2020. The shareholder was protected by a regulatory account. How did the hedging program begin and why is it failing the ratepayers?

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Quebec "Simplifies" Pricing of Electricity by Sidelining the Regulator.

The new Quebec government has significantly dminished the role of the independent body that regulated the operation and the rates of Hydro Quebec. The change is reviewed in the attached paper.

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Should Ratepayers Subsidize the Electrification of Oil and Gas Production?

This Commentary reviews the government's assumption that B.C. Hydro ratepayers will subsidize the cost of electrifying the production of oil and gas in the noeth east reagion. It is a sudsidy because the cost is greater than the anticipated revenue. The social benefit of reduced carbon emissions should be paid by the government, not the ratepayers.

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Insurance Brokers Association Exectutive Director Supports Public Auto Insurance Model

In the August edition of The Broker magazine Chuck Byrne, the exectutive director of the Insurance Brokers Association, wrote an editorial in support of the public model for the provision of compulsory insurance. Exerpts of this editorial are attached.

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B.C. Hydro's 2018/19 Annual Report: Flat Sales but Finances Now Reflect GAAP

This paper provides highlights of B.C. Hydro's 2018/19 annual report. The finances are now based on public sector GAAP and reflect the one-time loss caused by the windup of the revenue deferral account.

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Auditor General Removes Qualification on B.C. Hydro Accounting.

Auditor General Carol Bellringer has accepted the government's pledge to fully restore the B.C. Utilities Commission's authority to regulate B.C. Hydro and removed that part of her qualification on the government's 2018/19 financial statements.

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B.C. Hydro Maintains That The B.C. Utilities Commission is Independent.

Despite the clear opinion of the province's auditor general to the contrary B.C. Hydro asserts that the B.C. Utilities Commission is independent. This paper looks at the issue.

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Manitoba Plans for Electricity Rate Increases; B.C. Opts to Keep Rates Low.

Both Manitoba and B.C. public power utilities are facing major cost increases as large capital projects near completion. The Manitoba regulator is raising prices to smooth the transition, but the B.C. government has chosen to keep the rate increase below the increase in B.C. Hydro's costs. The NDP approach has many parallels to that of the previous government.

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Quantifying B.C. Hydro's Electricity Surplus, 2014 to 2022.

B.C. Hydro has generated or contracted for power in excess of domestic sales for a number of years, and forecasts surpluses for a number of years to come. This Commentary reviews the acquisition and sales.

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Ontario Legislative Committee Report Calls for More Transparency.

This Commentary reviews the recent report by the special committee of the Ontario legislature on financial transparency. The committee was struck to examine how the previous Liberal government ignored public sector accounting standards to lower electricity rates while still claiming to balance the 2017/18 budget.

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A Closer Look at the Government's Financial Plan for B.C. Hydro.

Occasional Paper No. 67 reviews B.C. Hydro's new three-year financial plan and the F20 to F21 rate request filed with the B.C. Utilities Commission. The government has loosened the constraints on the independence of the regulator, but is it sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the public sector accounting standards?

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New B.C. Hydro Financing Plan and More Authority for the BCUC Announced.

This commentary reviews the new five-year rates plan for B.C. Hydro, as well as the government's plan to restore the B.C. Utilities Commission's authority to regulate the public utility.

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Zapped -- A Review of IPP Electricity Purchases.

On 13 February 2019 the government released a comprehensive review of the purchase of private electricity by B.C. Hydro https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/electricity-alternative-energy/electricity/bc-hydro-review/bch19-158-ipp_report_february_11_2019.pdf. The review concluded that a) BC Hydro bought too much energy and energy with the wrong profile, b) BC Hydro paid too much for the energy it bought, and c) BC Hydro undertook these actions at the direction of Government.

See also https://vancouversun.com/news/politics/b-c-hydros-private-power-projects-wasting-billions-says-new-report and

https://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/vaughn-palmer-ratepayers-zapped-by-hydro-report-that-reveals-shocking-interference and the response of Clean Enery BC https://www.cleanenergybc.org/reports-publications/response-to-davidsons-report 

 

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Auditor General Bellringer Details Concerns with B.C. Hydro's Deferral Accounting.

In early February Auditor General Bellringer released her report "Rate-Regulated Accounting at B.C. Hydro" (http://www.bcauditor.com/sites/default/files/publications/reports/OAGBC_RRA_RPT.pdf, which provides more explaination for her decision to qualify the government's financial statements for the last two years; see https://vancouversun.com/news/politics/political-directives-have-undermined-b-c-hydros-finances-auditor-general-says. On 7 February 2019 Vaughn Palmer commented on some of the implications at https://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/vaughn-palmer-hydros-deferrals-problem-about-to-become-a-political-problem

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Former Premier Wynne Defends Electricity Rate Manipulation.

This paper reviews the testimoney of former Ontario Premier Wynne at the legislative committee on transparency, and compares the practice in Ontario to that practiced in B.C.

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B.C. Hydro's Q2 Results: Volume of Power Sold Falls While Debt Climbs

My comments on the results and the lack of discussion on accounting changes or future rate increases.

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Ontario Review Promises Greater Transparency and Accountability.

Commentary on certain aspects of the Ontario government's plans regarding electricity pricing and auto insurance regulation.

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Ontario Seeks to Improve Financial Transparency and Accountability.

A committee of the Ontario legislature is holding hearings into how the previous Liberal government attempted to ignore the accounting rules to make the government books appear than was the case. What lessons might the B.C. government learn from this review?

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Rate-Regulated Accounting at B.C. Hydro: A Primer.

The attached paper provides background for two reports on deferral accounts and B.C. Hydro's finances that are expected to be released shortly. The government has promised to fix the finances at our public utilitity, but the details on how this will be accomplished is unclear.

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Senior Officials Review of BC Hydro Rate Options: Will New or Old Thinking Prevail?

This paper explores the options available to the senior official committee appointed to develop recommendations for a new rates plan for B.C. Hydro. Will the committee adopt the new approach of restoring integrity to financial management, or continue with the old practice of abusing the deferral accounts?

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Ontario Government Agrees that Hydro Deferral Accounting Inappropriate. September 21, 2018.

The Ontario government has moved to clean-up certain accounting practices, including the financing of the "Fair Hydro" deferrals. The accounting adjustment of the electricity deferrals increased 2018/19 expenditures by $2,4 billion.

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Public Inquiry Begins into Newfoundland's Muskrat Falls Project. September 16, 2018.

A public inquiry is now underway designed to examin the approval process for the $12.7 billion hydroelectric dam. As Konrad Yakabuski writes: "Whether it involves provincially-owned hydroelectric behemoths in British Columbia, Manitoba or Quebec, or the Crown-owned nuclear-dominated Ontario Power Generation, politically-driven energy policies across Canada have saddled ratepayers and taxpayers with billions of dollars in extra debt."https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/muskrat-falls-inquiry-wont-save-newfoundlanders-from-a-127-billion-sinkhole/article37052291/https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-inquiry-into-muskrat-falls-megaproject-boondoggle-to-begin-in-2/

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BC Hydro Five-Year Statistics:2012/13 to 2017/18. September 13, 2018.

Occasional Paper 61 reviews certain aspects of BC Hydro's operations and finances for the last five yers.

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Some Implications of Restoring the BCUC's Independence. September 10, 2018.

This commentary paper explores in more detail some of the issues involved in fixing the accounting policies at B.C. Hydro.

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Goverment Begins Restoring Financial Integrity: What's Next for B.C. Hydro's Books? August 31, 2018

This paper provides an overview of why the government set aside $950 million for the 2017/18 fiscal year to begin to fix the financial troubles at B.C. Hydro. the restoration of proper accounting standards at the public power utility presents certain financial problems for the government.

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BCUC Approves BC Hydro's $1.2 Billion Dam Purchase

A short commentary on the regulator's 18 July 2018 approval of the purchase of Teck's interest in the Waneta Dam.

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Ontario Government Pressures Hydro One Board and CEO to Resign

Expensive electricity was a major issue in the recent Ontario election. The new government succeeded in forcing the board and CEO Mayo Schmidt to resign, but lower prices have only been possible by transferring cost to taxpayers and future generations; https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-entire-ontario-hydro-one-board-to-resign-ceo-to-step-down/ and https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-doug-ford-kneecaps-hydro-one/ and https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/doug-ford-hydro-one-1.4743097 and https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-doug-ford-used-legislative-threat-to-oust-hydro-one-ceo-board/

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Hon. Mungall Says BC Hydro's Finances in Good Shape--Really?

A comment on minister Mungall's statement and the staff review of BC Hydro's costs.

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Commentary: Populist Promises and the Cost of Electrictiy. May 18, 2018

The three main politic parties in Ontario are promising to reduce electricity prices, but are being vague as to what this will cost. It's time for the voters to become educated consumers. 

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Public Pension Plan Solvency: Why Is BC Hydro an Outlier?

A comment in response to Vaughn Palmer's article about the BC Investment Management Corporation and the well-funded public pension plans.

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