The Site C Dam location along the Peace River in Fort St. John in April 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

BC Hydro forced to misspend billions on private energy contracts, report says

Previous government pressured it to buy too much of the wrong energy at inflated prices, report says

The province’s previous government forced BC Hydro to sign long-term contracts with independent power producers, causing it to buy too much energy for too high a price, in a move that will cost taxpayers billions, a new report says.

The report, written by former B.C. Treasury Board director Ken Davidson, says the Christy Clark government fabricated an urgent need for electricity, but would not allow the utility to produce it, and forcing it to buy the wrong type of power from private producers at much higher prices.

READ MORE: BC Hydro’s $5.5 billion in deferred debt puts pressure on rates

“Government directed BC Hydro to purchase 8,500 GWh/year of Firm energy BC Hydro did not need,” the report says, costing a “conservative” estimate of about $16 billion over 20 years, or $200 a year for the average residential customer.

Davidson makes a number of recommendations, including restoring the oversight of the BC Utilities Commission and ensuring all power is purchased and priced at market rates.

He had been tasked to independently review what influenced BC Hydro’s purchases of electricity from private power producers, and how those purchases affected hydro rates.

His report is separate from the two-phase review into controlling costs at BC Hydro – the results of which are to be released on Thursday. The NDP launched the review last June following its decision to proceed with the controversial $10-billion Site C megadam in the Peace region.

READ MORE: Site C dam goes ahead, cost estimate now up to $10.7 billion

“British Columbians are paying more on their hydro bills because of the previous government’s choices,” said Energy Minister Michelle Mungall in a release Wednesday evening.

“Professional staff within government and BC Hydro warned them against that course of action, but that government refused to listen.”

Read the full report here.

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