Public Power Generation Idle While British Columbians Pay More for Private Energy
COPE 378 predicts Hydro’s financial problems will continue until real action is taken on IPPs
High levels of precipitation have caused a surplus of hydroelectric power in the Pacific Northwest, and big problems for BC Hydro. Hydro has several expensive contracts with private Independent Power Producers (IPPs) on which minimum payments must be maintained despite the lack of power demand.
“We’ve been predicting this since 2007,” said David Black, President of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378 (COPE 378), which represents many of the workers at BC Hydro and its outsourced arm Accenture. “Paying the higher costs to the private power producers is hard to defend even when there is the demand. Now what we’re seeing is Hydro spilling water out of our public dams just in order to fulfill those contracts,” Black explained.
“They’re essentially pouring cheap, public power over the tops of dams and paying private power producers exorbitant amounts just to keep their contract obligations,” Black continued. For example, instead of diverting excess water from their Daisy Lake Reservoir, Hydro is allowing it to flow directly downstream. Meanwhile two IPPs in the region are being paid to generate power.
Hydro’s 2011-2012 report reveals they paid more than twice as much per megawatt hour than it would’ve cost for us to import the electricity. Recently the government acknowledged some of the flaws with its “self-sufficiency” policy, but Black says British Columbians are still waiting for real action to rein in IPPs:
“British Columbians are waiting for the government to act on their realization that their own policy around IPPs was deeply flawed. What we saw come out today shows Hydro doesn’t need private power. In times of high supply we’re paying for power we don’t need. And in times of low supply we pay more than we would to just import it.”
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