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Hard lessons on Hydro in Newfoundland

(Re: ‘BC Hydro clear about Site C need,’ Letters, Alaska Highway News, Sept. 8) Hydro’s Dave Conway is only telling half the story.

(Re: ‘BC Hydro clear about Site C need,’ Letters, Alaska Highway News, Sept. 8)

Hydro’s Dave Conway is only telling half the story. If Hydro will be short of capacity and energy within 10 years, why did Hydro say Burrard Thermal was shut down because it wasn’t needed? Burrard could have been refurbished as a standby plant for well under a billion dollars, and its emissions would be a fraction of what a single Petronas-sized LNG export terminal would emit. Burrard would have made the perfect backup for the power the province is entitled to receive from the US under the Columbia River treaty. Instead this power is being sold on the open market for less than half the cost of Site C’s power, with the government pocketing the revenue.

Conway says that demand is expected to increase by 40% over 20 years, but that’s without any conservation measures. What he doesn’t say is Hydro is required under the Liberal’s Clean Energy Act to reduce growth by 66% via energy conservation. $1.6 billion is to be allocated to achieve this under Hydro’s 10 year plan. In fact the Liberals tout that Hydro will be reducing load growth by over three-quarters (78%), which means a demand increase of less than 10% over 20 years. 

He selectively quotes from Site C’s independent Joint Review Panel report. The panel didn’t trust Hydro’s convoluted financial numbers and recommended that the BCUC examine the dam’s financial viability and its need. The Liberals promptly rejected that. Hydro wouldn’t provide the Panel with a cost comparison of Site C vs a gas-fired power plant because the Liberals wouldn’t allow such a plant. So Site C was the least expensive of the alternatives that the panel was allowed to look at. So much for being “independent.”

Hydro touts how affordable its rates are, but tell that to anyone who pays the 12.5 cents a kWh Tier 2 rate for electric heat and hot water. The Liberals are keeping Hydro’s power rates artificially low, causing Hydro’s debt to grow by billions, and Site C will only make it worse. The Newfoundland government circumvented its Utility Commission when it decided to build the Muskrat Falls hydro project in 2010. The cost has ballooned from $6.2 billion to $11.4 billion, and it’s 2 years behind schedule. As a result the province’s power rates will double to 21.4 cents a kWh by 2021. Newfoundlanders have learned the hard way that large hydro projects no longer result in affordable power.

—Martin Cavin, Retired Power Engineer, Port Moody, BC