The Site C dam on the Peace River is one of the projects exempted from B.C. Utilities Commission review by the B.C. government.

B.C. to restore utilities commission authority

NDP says it's no coincidence that BC Hydro rates are to be kept under political control until after the 2017 election

The B.C. government has promised to restore the B.C. Utilities Commission’s independent role in setting electricity rates and add more full-time commissioners to help them do it.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett released an independent review of the commission Wednesday, and said the government intends to implement all 35 recommendations. Authority over setting BC Hydro rates for commercial and residential customers won’t be restored until 2017, after Bennett and Premier Christy Clark stepped in to cap rate increases in 2013.

The review comes after the government exempted big-ticket projects from BCUC review, including the Site C dam on the Peace River, the wireless electricity meter system and a new transmission line to northwest B.C. that ran $300 million over the original budget.

Bennett announced the government directive on BC Hydro rates after the 2013 election, with a 10-year plan that increases rates 28 per cent over five years. He acknowledged at the time that rate increases were being kept low using a “rate smoothing” account that defers more than $1 billion of the utility’s debt.

BC Hydro rates are to increase six per cent this year under the province’s directive, and then be capped at four per cent for two years after that..

“After the first five years of the 10-year plan they [BCUC] will be back in charge of setting rates,” Bennett said Thursday.

NDP energy critic Adrian Dix said the B.C. Liberal government has been overruling and sidelining the BCUC since 2003 when it directed BC Hydro to buy power from private producers. He said its political intervention on rising BC Hydro rates is designed to continue holding down rate increases until after the 2017 election.

Dix said it’s also no coincidence that Bennett received the independent review in November and held onto it until after the government had announced its decision to proceed with construction of the Site C dam.

The review panel and the regulated utilities agreed that the government has authority to set provincial energy policy and direct the BCUC on specific issues. But the report adds that the government should define those policies well in advance and “then leave the commission to act independently within its mandate.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTO: Chilliwack photographer captures incredible image of Comet Neowise

Comet that’s visible to the naked eye will be easiest to see on July 23

Upper Fraser Valley RCMP re-open community policing offices

CPOs have been closed for weeks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but re-opened Tuesday

PHOTOS: Sunbathers soak up the warm weather at Cultus Lake Park

Temperatures reached a high of 25 degrees celsius on Tuesday, marking the hottest day of July so far

RCMP ask for assistance to find missing Chilliwack man

Raymond Gene Jarvis has been missing since early July

Popkum fire chief urges caution after Saturday rescue from Bridal Veil Falls

11-year-old boy was stable, fire chief Walter Roos said, when delivered to a waiting ambulance

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Thousands of dollars of stolen rice traced to Langley warehouse

Police raid seizes $75,000 in ‘commercial scale’ theft case

UPDATE: Mission spray park closed after children suffer swollen eyes, burns

Mission RCMP are investigating incident that injured several children

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner brings ‘objectivity’ to the job

Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding is Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner, also a first for B.C.

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

19 times on 19th birthday: Langley teen goes from crutches to conquering Abby Grind

Kaden Van Buren started at midnight on Saturday. By 3 p.m. he had completed the trek 19 times.

Most Read