Bill Bennett has a bone to pick with Norm Macdonald over BC Hydro

I have to say I am impressed with Norm MacDonald’s loyalty to his Party. He repeats his talking points about BC Hydro to perfection even as he makes plans for his well-deserved retirement. (Click here to read his last MLA Report.) Only problem is that the NDP’s propaganda on BC Hydro is a gross exaggeration and I expect MLA MacDonald knows this.

BC Hydro provides British Columbians with clean, renewable electricity to power their homes and businesses at among the lowest prices in North America. It’s power we can rely upon on the coldest, darkest nights of the year – like on this past January 3rd when BC’s electricity consumption hit a new record high.

BC Hydro is investing $2 billion a year to upgrade and expand our electricity infrastructure to meet increasing demand for electricity driven by our growing economy and growing population. The NDP when in government opted to let transmission and generation infrastructure deteriorate without reinvestment and now we are catching up.

The decision to proceed with Site C is a major public policy decision that rests with elected representatives in Government, not the BCUC. No other major hydroelectric dam project in the past required BCUC approval. You won’t hear that from the NDP.

It was the NDP that started the practice of taking dividends from BC Hydro in the 1990s. Our government recognizes that this practice is unsustainable at a time when BC Hydro is making historic investments to upgrade our electricity system. Starting next year we are reducing the dividend by $100 million per year until it reaches zero, and it will reach zero within the next two or three years.

The private renewable power industry now provides about 25 per cent of the diversified supply of clean energy we all use every day. I wouldn’t expect the NDP to understand the economic benefits of partnering with private industry, but let me point out that when private producers build a power facility they take on associated risks of capital costs, financing, and operation, thus protecting the ratepayer. The BCUC recently approved the renewal of two electricity purchase agreements between BC Hydro and private producers.

Finally, the Northwest Transmission Line that the NDP love to hate has extended our provincial electricity grid to a huge area of northwest B.C. that was not served before, powering projects like the $680 million Red Chris mine which now employs about 350 people, and enabling the remote community of Iskut to get off diesel generators and enjoy a reliable source of clean electricity.

As for projects going over budget, yes there have been a few but what’s the overall record?  In the past five years BC Hydro has delivered 563 projects worth $6.48 billion for an aggregate $11.7 million or 1.8% under budget.

While Mr. Macdonald and the NDP are busy saying ‘no’ our government is focused on moving forward with BC Hydro to ensure British Columbians can continue to rely upon reliable, affordable, clean electricity.

Bill Bennett 
Minister of Energy and Mines