Minister unmoved by power producers’ plea

Energy Minister Rich Coleman expects to decide this fall on changes to B.C.'s clean energy legislation, including a possible reduction in independent power purchases by BC Hydro.

Energy and Mines Minister Rich Coleman

VICTORIA – Energy Minister Rich Coleman expects to decide this fall on changes to B.C.’s clean energy legislation, including a possible reduction in independent power purchases by BC Hydro.

Coleman said in an interview he plans to have recommendations for cabinet within weeks on the findings of a review panel of senior officials this summer. The review identified several ways for BC Hydro to hold electricity rate increases to less than four per cent in the next two years, including a change to the definition of self-sufficiency in clean energy imposed by the B.C. government, to take effect in 2016.

Independent producers want the province to maintain the target of self-sufficiency from domestic sources to meet demand even in low-water years. Last week, the Clean Energy Association of B.C. warned that cutting back on domestic supplies may lead B.C. to import more electricity, promoting further development of coal and natural gas power plants in North America.

Coleman said he met with association representatives, and he believes their concerns are premature. Between population growth and new industrial customers, BC Hydro projects a 40 per cent increase in electricity demand in the longer term, and there will continue to be room for independent producers in that growth, he said.

“I get their concerns, but we’ve got to run this corporation,” Coleman said.

Association president Paul Kariya also argued that BC Hydro is expecting the spot market price for electricity to rise by 50 per cent in 10 years and double current rates in 20 years. Reducing domestic supply could result in more costs as well as more greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

“That part of their argument I don’t buy,” Coleman said. “If we change the definition of self-sufficiency, that would mean that Hydro by our definition has all the power it needs. They don’t need to go to the spot market.”

The review team, led by Premier Christy Clark’s deputy John Dyble, also suggested reducing BC Hydro’s workforce, streamlining bids for construction and deferring some capital works to save money.