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.”

 

Just Posted

Vehicle catches fire near China Creek Marina

No injuries in blaze, according to witnesses

North Island College issues brief statement on bomb threat

Threat forced college to close all campuses for one day

Premier wades into fishery closure debate

John Horgan questions the federal government’s approach

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

Horse riders resurrect public riding ring near Port Alberni

Open house planned for July 22 so public can check out Beaver Creek facility

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Almost every part of Canada’s largest national park deteriorating: federal study

Drawing on decades of research — the report lists 50 pages of citations

Activists protest outside Kinder Morgan terminal in kayaks, canoes

Tsleil-Waututh elder Ta’ah Amy George led the water ceremony from a traditional Coast Salish canoe

Canadian soccer fans brace for World Cup final between France, Croatia

First ever final for the Croatians, while it’s France’s third, going into match as betting favourite

Most Read