The Ruskin Dam. (File photo)

ELECTION 2017: What’s up with BC Hydro rates?

B.C. party leaders are making conflicting promises on utility rates

Second in a series of Black Press B.C. election coverage leading up to May 9.

One of NDP leader John Horgan’s promises for the May 9 election is a “freeze” on BC Hydro rates. Here’s a closer look at BC Hydro rates under the BC Liberals and what the effects might be to reining them in.

WATCH: NDP to freeze Hydro rates if elected

The BC Liberals took political control over BC Hydro rates after Christy Clark became party leader, held rates down until after the 2013 election, and then hiked them by nine per cent in 2014 and six per cent in 2015.

The current plan is to increase rates a total of 28 per cent in five years, in the first half of a 10-year-rates plan imposed by former energy minister Bill Bennett. It mandates increases of four per cent this year (already in effect as an interim rate since last spring), 3.5 per cent in 2018 and three per cent in 2019.

Average monthly household BC Hydro rates

Average monthly BC Hydro bills
Create column charts

After that, the BC Liberals have promised to turn decisions for rate increases back over to the independent BC Utilities Commission.

Horgan has railed for years about political interference in BC Hydro rates, but his proposed freeze amounts to the same thing. The BC Liberal plan also weans the government off the “dividend” that provincial governments have taken since the NDP years, starting this year and reducing it to zero by 2022.

In some years, BC Hydro has had to borrow more to pay the finance ministry its cut. BC Liberals also point to the 1990s NDP government’s BC Hydro rate freeze, and the lack of upgrades to the system during that time.

READ: BC Liberals stand pat with platform

Currently, the John Hart dam at Campbell River and the Ruskin Dam near Mission are being upgraded to make them earthquake resistant, and further billion-dollar turbine expansions are underway at newer dams in the Kootenays.

NDP energy critic Adrian Dix said last year BC Hydro should have added a sixth turbine at Revelstoke Dam for $450 million before embarking on the $9 billion Site C dam, the third on the Peace River.

WATCH: Work begins on Site C generators

Premier Christy Clark visited a Site C concrete contractor and toured the Peace region early in the campaign, to showcase the 2,100 people working on site and argue for growing clean energy needs.

“Under the NDP, Site C would be dead,” Clark told supporters. “Under the Greens, it would be deader.”

@tomfletcherbc

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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