Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Saving BC Hydro from Gordon Campbell

So far, the cornerstone of Premier Gordon Campbell's green revolution consists of forcing the public utility BC Hydro to buy power at twice the market value from private independent power producers and then resell it at a loss to owners of air-conditioners in California .
A good deal for IPP investors like General Electric/Plutonic Power who get to use BC Hydro as a guaranteed market ; a bad deal for the environment and BC ratepayers who will presumably see the loss reflected in higher hydro rates.

"If this was happening in India or Pakistan," SFU Professor Douglas McArthur is quoted as saying in The Tyee, "we would be raising no end of questions."

Because this already did happen in India. Long before the Enron scam broke in the US, Enron and the US government coerced India into a contract that forced India to buy the more expensive power produced by Enron, bankrupting India's own power producers in the process. Unable to get out of the contract, India eventually decided it was cheaper to pay Enron not to produce power.

Well, as Kurt Vonnegut once said in another context, we're the Indians now.

Fortunately Marvin Shaffer at Policy Note has an idea :

IPPs don’t want to export directly. They don’t have a product they could readily sell — intermittent seasonal energy isn’t worth very much. Their bankers wouldn’t finance them without long term guaranteed prices from BC Hydro. And their shareholders don’t want to take the market risk.

Here is a modest proposal. Why doesn’t the government simply tell BC Hydro that it must sell to IPPs, at a competitive price, the transmission, back-up and other services IPPs need to export power. And then, for those projects that truly are environmentally benign, let the IPPs and their bankers and shareholders decide.

Unfortunately Gordo's run-of-river buddies will never go for it.

1 comment:

kootcoot said...

Alison, thanx for the heads-up:

" then resell it at a loss to owners of air-conditioners in California ."

All this time I've been under the impression that our power was gonna be sent over Jumbo Pass to run hair dryers in Phoenix, AridZoner!

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