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Targeted for project: Homathko River entering Bute Inlet. Photo Damien Gillis, Save Our Rivers Society.

Targeted for project: Homathko River entering Bute Inlet. Photo Damien Gillis, Save Our Rivers Society.

Memo to media: time to expose Campbell’s fallacy

Last week I spoke of the appalling mainstream media in BC and how it let Premier Gordon Campbell get away with murder of our rivers and the ecologies they support. The exception and a major one is Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail whose BC section, combined with the national edition, gives better coverage by far of BC affairs than The Vancouver (Seriously West Coast) Sun, The Province and Global combined.) I need hardly add that encourages full debate on all issues.

I want to make it clear that I’m not asking that the media agree with any or all of the positions I’ve taken. I only ask that they examine the facts plus the motives and actions of the Campbell government with the same thoroughness as, in Vaughn Palmer’s case especially, they brought to the “Fast Ferry” debacle of the last NDP government. There are three main ways the media can deceive us – by not telling the truth or using half truths at best; not talking about the issue at all; by cherry picking issues and avoiding the dodgy ones. The mainstream media in BC does all three.

There are winners with private power. There is short term employment to build the plants and according to Don McInnes, CEO of General Electric backed Plutonic Power about 2/3rds of that comes from sources outside the area; there are jobs after the plants are built – as many as two workers will be needed to look after the computerized outfit; one cannot, of course, forget the shareholders of the companies who make these sweetheart deals.

Let’s look at the Campbell argument that we need private power to meet our own needs. This is a plainly not true since the vast majority of this private power comes when we don’t need it and since electricity itself in bulk cannot be stored it will all go south. It is critical that all British Columbians know that private power has nothing to do with our power needs but has from the start been targeted for export. This bases Campbell’s energy plan on an utter falsehood thus their entire private power argument collapses.

I’m going to quote from a piece written by my colleague, Damien Gillis, the film maker, who does the Powerplay series for Save Our Rivers Society ( It was written for The Campbell River Courier-Islander on the recent BCUC ruling that rubbished Campbell’s energy plan.

Writing in support of the recent BCUC decision which found that BC Hydro’s private power program is not in the public interest Gillis says  “the majority of the power these private river projects produce comes in spring – when our public dams are full and demands at their lowest, meaning that all this private power will be for export. Only here’s the kicker: since we’re being suckered into paying two to three times the market rate for this power, we will have to flip it to our neighbours at a huge loss, driving up our power bills and taxes as BC Hydro goes from making a profit for the people of BC to being a drain on our province and economy. Our regulator [BCUC] blew the whistle on vastly exaggerated claims of our power needs by BC Hydro, which really just enacting the government policy it is shackled to, whether it agrees or not”.

This is the nub of the matter. BC Hydro is forced by Campbell to pay private power companies, on a “take or pay” basis  2 – 3 times what it must can be exported for. That was the idea from the beginning even though we were all told that BC needed this power for its own use. Don McInnes, who heads the Plutonic/General Electric partnership, in what was clearly an unguarded moment, said “You’d have to be in a coma to not see where the B.C. government is going; now we need consistency of policy and certainty of timelines … An export plan is an obvious place for us to go.”

What does this mean to the taxpayer?

Because nearly all private power must be exported and because BC Hydro has been forced into sweetheart “take or pay” deals at 2-3 times the export market value, it must now export this power at ruinous prices. With around 30 outfits up and running BC Hydro owes them $31 BILLION – if (God forbid) Bute Inlet is approved that will add approximately $20 BILLION. Each new license adds to the bill. And, remember, folks, BC Hydro is our company and this is your money.

But that’s not all. BC Hydro has always paid a very large dividend to the government – as high as a BILLION Dollars one year – and that can no longer happen for obvious seasons. That’s money that builds our schools and hospitals.

And where, pray tell, is that money going?

Into the pockets of shareholders such as, in General Electric’s case, Warren Buffet, for one.

It’s said by people like Guy Dauncey, president of BC Sustainable Energy Association (always be wary of companies that state they are for sustainable and green power because as often as not they’re the very opposite) says that the fact we can’t use private energy “enables us to export green power to the USA, where the new Clean Energy Act mandates that 20% of electricity be from renewables by 2020, which is to our collective global environmental benefit”.

Dauncey, who makes his living making speeches spinning this rubbish, answers the obvious fact that we don’t need private energy with the cheery thought that the poor old US will be beneficiary, as indeed will be the world! I’m no knocker of America but before we bugger up our rivers and our world renowned power company shouldn’t the States bugger up theirs first? Imagine the politics of this south of the line! The Governor tells his legislatures and the voters that there is no need for us to make any sacrifice of our environment because BC is happy to do that for us!

(It’s to be noted that Dauncey’s organization is heavily funded by the BC and federal governments and the private power industry.)

Isn’t it obvious that once we go down the slippery slope to being the energy source of some States we will never be able to stop?

Besides, how the hell does destroying our precious watersheds to dump a bunch of power on the market at a hugs loss to all British Columbians, without any assurances that our neighbours will shut down coal fired plants or not start up new ones, lead to any reduction of green house gases? What’s to stop Washington, just as an example, start up a fossil fuel plant then re-selling our power that they got so cheaply to California?

That’s the Campbell commitment to British Columbia its people and generations to come – an energy plan that permanently ruins our rivers for energy we can’t use, forces BC Hydro to pay over twice what it’s worth then sell it to the United States for half or less of what it cost them, thus ensuring Hydro will go under.

There it is: are the people of British Columbia ever going to wake up to what is happening here?

4 Responses to “The Ruinous Illogic of Private River Power”

  1. The Robber Class says:

    Good luck on getting any honest reporting at the Sun or Province regarding IPP’s… the Sun/Province are teetering on bankruptcy … and they need to suck up to their biggest single advertiser; the BC Govt. (the proponents of IPP’s.)

  2. The Robber Class says:

    Robber Class vs. the Robbed Class: What Can We Do?

    Read this Blog post by Cindy Sheehan for some further insights…

  3. Canwest is effectively bankrupt although the Sun & Province are probably profitable. But a good question to ask now is who owns Canwest? The Asper family or New York bond holders?

    Warning to advertisers in Canwest publications. Can you deduct the expense for tax purposes if these are no longer qualified as Canadian newspapers?

    Right now, the Aspers are seeking a lifeline.

  4. The Robber Class says:

    The Sun and Province both carry big legacy costs … I’m not sure they are profitable … their hydro bill for running their BC operations alone probably push close to a $100,000 per month… then just wait till their hydro bills double within the next 5 – 10 years, combined with all the new tolls and taxes.

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