Hydro rate increases to be cut back

BC Hydro should reduce its proposed rate increases by half and prune back a corporation that has become overstaffed and micromanaged, according to a review panel appointed by the B.C. government.

BC Hydro CEO Dave Cobb says he can meet the government's cost-cutting targets by eliminating 600 jobs.

BC Hydro CEO Dave Cobb says he can meet the government's cost-cutting targets by eliminating 600 jobs.

VICTORIA – BC Hydro should reduce its proposed rate increases by half and prune back a corporation that has become overstaffed and micromanaged, according to a review panel appointed by the B.C. government.

Energy Minister Rich Coleman said Thursday he accepts the recommendations of a report by the three deputy ministers he appointed in April. They include reducing BC Hydro’s rate application to the eight per cent interim increase already being charged this year, followed by rate hikes of 3.9 per cent in each of the next two years.

The B.C. Utilities Commission must approve any rate increases. The rate proposal currently before the commission is for increases of nearly 10 per cent this year, next year and 2013. With an aggressive reconstruction and expansion of the power grid underway, BC Hydro had been planning to raise rates by about 50 per cent in the next five years.

Rolling back the increases requires BC Hydro to cut costs by $800 million over three years. The review panel estimates that would mean a reduction of up to 1,000 of the corporation’s 6,000 employees.

BC Hydro CEO Dave Cobb said the corporation has already identified 250 positions that can be eliminated, and is working on efficiency measures that will cut another 350 jobs. That should be sufficient to meet the government’s target of easing the impact of hydro bills on B.C. ratepayers, Cobb said.

NDP energy critic John Horgan focused on the panel’s recommendation that the government rethink its 2016 deadline for BC Hydro to become self-sufficient in electricity. That target was imposed by former premier Gordon Campbell to spawn a costly private power industry, and it should be scrapped altogether, Horgan said.

The review panel found that BC Hydro’s staff grew by 41 per cent between 2006 and 2010. That was before it reabsorbed BC Transmission Corp., spun off as a separate entity in 2002. BC Hydro currently employs 650 engineers, which the panel noted is six times the number working for the transportation ministry, administering a construction program of about the same size.

Coleman and Cobb stressed that BC Hydro would not compromise safety or reliability to achieve the savings. Deferred projects would be things like building upgrades, while major dam refits and preparation for the Site C dam on the Peace River will continue.

Coleman said the transportation ministry used to engineer each new bridge down to the last bolt before calling for bids to construct it. Now it sets performance and cost benchmarks and lets private sector bidders find the most efficient way to meet them. He said BC Hydro needs to do the same.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

.
LETTER: Anti-semitism definition lacking

Re: We must identify anti-Semitism and combat it (Online, Feb. 26) I… Continue reading

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read