The Numbers Don’t Lie: We Don’t Need More Private Power


Sooner or later the truth must come out. Clearly it must be from outside the government and BC Hydro – and it sure as hell isn’t going to come from the mainstream media.

Let me lay this out clearly – either what The Common Sense Canadian says is true or it isn’t. We’ve laid out the facts and taken our message around the province and are about to start another tour. The numbers tell us that thousands of you are seeing what we do and your response has been fantastic.

We don’t just tell you what comes into our heads – we rely upon the best experts in the business. We are a-political in the sense that we don’t support any political party but we sure as hell will support any party with a chance to form a government that wants to save our province from those who steal our resources and take them and the profits away to faraway places.

Yes, I’m speaking of the foreign fish farmers and the foreign or at best huge Canadian companies who are ruining our rivers to make power for California and pocketing all the profits at no cost to themselves. Indeed the harshest fact is that in both cases we help fund these predators.

There were two news items recently that in days gone by would have had newspapers and TV stations raising supreme hell. In fact they are, at best, printed in a small corner of the business pages.

BC Hydro’s financing of Independent Power Producers took another two astonishing turns.

Until now, if an IPP wanted to dam our rivers – yes they are dams – and the project size was under 10 Megawatts, they could do so free of any public process or environmental assessment. Just pay the peppercorn license fee and away you went with the equivalent of a never-ending winning lottery ticket in your hand.

Now BC Hydro (for which read the Campbell government) intends to raise the limit to 15 Megawatts – by no means a “small”, “run-of-river” project!

That’s a 50% hike in size for thieves trashing our rivers, forcing BC Hydro to go further in the hole for power that is exported to the undiminished profit of the likes of General Electric and without any environmental concerns and without the slightest input from the public!

This power isn’t for us – when Pinocchio Campbell tells us this is for our energy needs he’s laughing he’s bullshitting us. This government mocks us at The Common Sense Canadian and laughs – but whether we win this fight or lose, CSC and all who support us can carry their heads high for doing our best to save what’s left of our province.

But there’s more. Hydro also intends to offer these offshore leeches a raise of between 14-29% for this already astronomical power!

This is like the bailed-out banks paying million dollar bonuses to the people who got them in trouble in the first place! BC Hydro is forced to pay even more ransom to these bastards who send power to Hydro when it doesn’t need it. Most of these projects provide the bulk of their power during the Spring
run-off, when our reservoirs are full and our power needs at their
lowest. So Hydro must either export it at a huge loss or use it instead of power they make themselves at as little as a 1/12th the cost!

Good God, folks, when is enough enough?

You want a little more sleight-of-hand?

The government, through BC Hydro, is telling us we need a lot more power. Now remember, whatever their power needs, they are not going to get it from IPPs. It’s easy to think that if we need more power, that IPPs are the answer but that’s palpably false.

I told you we have top-notch advisors. Erik Andersen, is one of them. He’s an economist who follows these issues closely and he has a report on this edition of the website which I urge you to read.

Put simply, BC Hydro has, as is their history, grossly inflated the power needs of this province. They did this 30 years ago when I was in government and they always have. It’s sort of a shield against falling short of the needs but now they have outdone themselves, as Mr. Andersen’s figures demonstrate.

Moreover, anyone with half a brain can see that the demands will be far less than Hydro says for at least two reasons:

1.   Industrial demand will continue to diminish, in real terms, because we are in a long-term downturn in the economy worldwide and the likelihood is that it will get worse.

2.   Conservation is no longer some pie in the sky word only used in “feel good” speeches but is, and more and more, becoming an important reality. Hydro’s own 2007 Energy Conservation Potential Review report found that we could save enough electricity through serious conservation by 2026 to power 1.4 million homes (close to a third of our total current electricity demands)

Here, then, is where the Campbell government has got us:

1.   Private power destroying our rivers and the ecologies that depend upon them.

2.   The power they create is not needed by BC Hydro

3.   BC Hydro must take that power or pay for it – now at rates 14-29% more for this new purchase program. The bank has called the robber back to tell him he missed a safe and here’s the money he forgot.

4.   This means Hydro must export the power at a huge loss or use it when it can make its own power at 1/12th the cost on its heritage dams

5.   The environmental assessment, when it’s mandated, is a bad joke and more and more IPPs will dam rivers without any environmental assessment

6.   When the government says it’s doing all this for BC energy self sufficiency, for the reasons above, they’re lying through their teeth.

7.   BC Hydro has consistently made a profit sending a very substantial dividend to the government for hospital, schools and social services. Going bankrupt, it can no longer do that.

8.   Never mind, folks, you’ll get your dividend after all as Hydro will substantially raise its rates to you so they can pay that dividend!

The Liberal leadership hopefuls will not whisper a word about this and one can only hope that the NDP candidates make an issue out of it. Or maybe a third party will emerge.

Either what we’re saying is right or wrong – if we’re wrong, we should be challenged by the Campbell government with hard facts but that’s an unknown policy in their book; Moreover, their long silence tells us we’re spot on; if right, the government must abandon the policy, make the IPP contracts public and do its best to restore and protect our environment.

If the government persists we, and I mean all of us, must consider taking direct action.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at

7 thoughts on “The Numbers Don’t Lie: We Don’t Need More Private Power

  1. This IPP thing is big, bad and ugly. Plenty of stuff to fix, plenty to prevent.

    I’ve endorsed John Horgan partly because of his familiarity with BC Hydro (as former Energy Critic for the NDP.) I am therefor somewhat disappointed that one of his first policy announcements is about his policy change concerning the carbon tax when the IPP fiasco begs for attention (message to John: IPPs are a big thing, carbon taxes a little thing by comparison.)

    I’m hoping Mr Horgan will get to IPPs soon. I’d especially like to know what it would be like to rip up these private power contracts and when the program will be stopped to prevent more rivers from being ruined.

  2. To Casador,

    Yes, they are dams……concrete…….typically 5 metres high……it is in the Terms of Reference on the EAO websites….you can check Stlixwim Hydro/NI Hydro Holdings as an example for accurate info. They blast tunnels. They drain alpine lakes by levels of 20 metres (that’s 60 feet). They cannot produce in freezeup. If they are under 50Mw they do not have the exposure for public comment. This is an absolute truth. Tyson Lake by the same owners as Stlixwim have had serious issues with sedimentation due to inadequate preliminary examination. They have had their operations curtailed. Check it out. Rafe has all facts straight. You have been duped by lack of professional reporting by the mainstream media.

  3. There is only one question to ask;

    As electricity cannot be stored, why do British Columbians need to produce power EXACTLY at the time of year when British Columbians do not need the power?

    Which of course then begets this question;

    Who is this power for then? Not for British Columbians, this has been made very clear by Hydro records back ten years.

    And this will be the third question;

    Why are we not making plans to produce power when and if we require it? This is back to question one so the whole claim from the government and the IPP’s developers is a circular argument.

    So Casador remember this; if the story told doesn’t add up it is a lie, plain and simple.

  4. Rafe: When you were in government were all of your elected colleagues really that callous towards those that elected them, or were they acting on bad advice? You see, I really don’t think politicians are that stoopid or insensitive to the electorate. I think that most of them are over-whelmed with the myriad issues they have to deal with (poverty, gun control, crime, health caree, transit, child welfare …. ) and can’t keep up to speed on everything that comes across their desks. Accordingly, they often act on information and advice provided to them by bureaucrats, many of whom are hired into government from the very industries they now serve as “public servants”. Who better to hire for government services that deal with hydro-power than someone who is an expert in the subject (and probably works for Plutonic). They are the gatherers and filterers of information that gets passed on to politicians in the form of briefing notes so they can manipulate and obfuscate at will …. NO?

  5. Cassador, it is you who should be exploring a career as a novelist. The majority of these projects require water storage permits, which means that they are technically DAMS. When we say they don’t go through an “environmental assessment”, we’re not talking about you’re rubber stamped, under-the-radar process where the public has zero say…Finally, there aren’t enough abusive names in the English language to accurately describe this fraud being perpetrated on the people of BC…But it’s always good to hear from the private power industry, so thank you for your two cents.

  6. I nominate Rafe for best fiction author of the year. I have seen IPPs and studied the requirements. His article is full of falsehoods. Examples: Run of Rivers do not dam the river. ALL those projects have to go through the regulatory process, regardless of size. The process under 50 MW is different, but some IPPs elect the over 50 MW process even for small projects as it has a fixed timeline. Basically same licences and permits either way.

    And I do not think his abusive name calling adds to the debate – his factual errors and name calling simply, in my view, destroy his already limited credibility.

  7. THANK YOU RAFE! Fantastic article that I hope every British Columbia will read this. Selkirk Power has their official development proposals for three creeks located on the boundary of Glacier National Park out this week for referral. Citizens, help this madness stop!

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