Linemen install new power infrastructure in downtown Victoria. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. Hydro’s $5.5 billion in deferred debt puts pressure on rates

Auditor General says 29 accounts a complicated system

B.C. Hydro customers will have to pay off $5.5 billion in operating debt that has been pushed into the future to keep rates from spiking, and it’s not yet clear how the NDP government is going to tackle that.

Energy Minister Michelle Mungall’s initial effort to freeze rates was blocked by regulators, requiring a 3.5 per cent increase in 2017. Last year’s increase was another three per cent, similar to what the B.C. Liberal government had scheduled in its 10-year rate plan.

RELATED: B.C. Hydro freeze refused, rates go up 3% for 2018

RELATED: NDP looks for ways to rein in B.C. Hydro rates

In June of 2018, Mungall announced separate reviews of Hydro’s capital and operating debt, with outside experts to find a way forward, after the NDP government reluctantly decided to complete the $10 billion Site C project.

A key goal for Mungall is to return rate-setting to the B.C. Utilities Commission, after a series of directives from the previous government that drew accusations of political interference to make B.C. Hydro’s financial picture look better than it is.

On Wednesday, B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer released the latest report on B.C. Hydro’s deferred operating debt, which is separate from the billions in capital debt racked up for project such as Site C on the Peace River, the John Hart Dam reconstruction on Vancouver Island and the Ruskin dam and powerhouse rebuild in the Fraser Valley.

Deferring the bills of major storms and other unexpected spikes in operating costs is normal practice for utilities, Bellringer says. But B.C. Hydro’s network of 29 accounts is unusually complicated, with “rate smoothing” effects on future rates unclear.

In their response to Bellringer’s report, the ministry and B.C. Hydro emphasize that current customer rates are already on track to pay off 25 of the 29 deferral accounts.

Three that are not are the “customer crisis fund” account, the “Site C regulatory account” and the “rate smoothing regulatory account.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

RCMP renew request for help finding missing Nakusp man

Christopher Sanford was reported missing Aug. 5

Mishap with deer sends biker to hospital

Accident Thursday morning near Slocan Park

Car rolls down Nelson highway embankment, driver injured

Vehicle landed beside the Rosemont pedestrian trail

Pregnant Kootenay teachers fight to change compensation rules

Risk to unborn babies not recognized by WorkSafeBC

PLACE NAMES: Salmo and Slocan neighbourhoods

An an 1897 plan called for Salmo streets named Lincoln and Washington plus a Victoria Square

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

Scene it? Castlegar New’s weekly photo contest

Take a guess in our weekly guess-the-location photo contest.

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

RCMP, search crews hunt for 4-year-old boy missing near Mackenzie

George went missing early Saturday afternoon

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

B.C. VIEWS: Log exports and my other errors so far in 2019

Plastic bags, legislature overspending turn out differently

Most Read