The Government of British Columbia, has for the past 8 years, directed BC Hydro to increase provincial power generation (contracting with IPPs) and transmission capacity to serve a yet-to-materialize provincial demand. The official forecast by BC Hydro in 2006 indicated domestic demand would be almost 25% greater in 2010/11 than is actually the case. A resolve to stick with this exaggeration continues to this day despite multi-year evidence of a gross over-supply condition throughout the Pacific Northwest. Because BC Hydro did follow orders, the generation and transmission capacity in BC has been and will continue to have large financial consequences for ratepayers and citizens, the guarantors of the BC Hydro’s debt.
In the Fiscal year 2006 BC Hydro generated and delivered 52,002 GWhrs of electricity which was what its BC customers required. BC Hydro used $9.610 billion of fixed assets (property, plant and equipment) to do this work. It also used over $1 billion more in total liabilities.
By Fiscal 2011 the demand for electricity from BC customers had decreased to 50,607 GWhrs.
Next is the worrying part. BC Hydro had by this time increased its investment in fixed assets to $15.211 billion and taken total liabilities to $16.599 billion. In the course of this period BC Hydro managed to invest and borrow 60% more money to get a smaller amount of product output and delivery than in 2006. This change is a breathtaking example of loss of productivity of capital.
Just to reiterate, BC Hydro’s “Fixed Assets”(real) total is now surpassed by “Total Liabilities” by nearly $1.4 billion. This real asset shortfall is covered by fictional assets such as “Goodwill” and the “Regulatory Asset Account” (receivables from ratepayers from pending rate increases).
So how is this reckless use of capital showing up as pain? For a natural monopoly it always is translated into what we all are forced to pay. To ensure independence the data that follows is taken from an annual report prepared by Quebec Hydro carrying the title “Comparison of Electricity Prices in Major North American Cities”. This report covers 22 major cities and is prepared in the 4th quarter annually. The values are as at April 1st in each year and do not include “rate-rider” amounts nor taxes.
For Vancouver: Residential (1,000 Kwhs) Small Power (10,000) Medium (up to 400,000) Large (above)
(CDA cents per KWhr)
2006 6.41 7.02 4.92 3.53
2007 6.65 7.27 5.10 3.65
2008 6.98 7.63 5.35 3.84
2009 7.13 8.02 5.62 4.03
2010 7.79 8.76 6.15 4.40
The data above shows that over the 5 years rates have risen by between 21% and 24%. According to the latest BC Hydro Annual Report they are seeking rate increases of 9.73% in each of the years 2012, 2013 and 2014. If BCUC and the Government accommodate this request then residential rates in 2014 would be over 10.1 cents or nearly 60% above those in 2006.
These rates also show small businesses in BC are penalized just for being small. As to “Large” (industrial) customers, they enjoy rates that are about a third or less what BC Hydro is currently proposing to pay new IPPs and less than half what is estimated for Site C costs of production.
This summary provides evidence that our Government has pursued policies that sabotaged the energy competitiveness we used to enjoy. BC had an energy “edge” that has been and is being lost because of policy mistakes. Command economics, as practiced in BC, will never bring financial and social optimization just because this approach is always designed to serve narrow self-interests ahead of all others.