More costly BC Hydro work needed

Costly upgrades to old dams are not enough to prepare BC Hydro for a major earthquake, and electricity rates will continue to rise

Ruskin dam in the Fraser Valley was built more than 80 years ago

VICTORIA – Costly upgrades to old dams are not enough to prepare BC Hydro for a major earthquake, and electricity rates will continue to rise as upgrades and expansion continue.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett acknowledged Thursday that further rate increases will be needed to finance improvements to the vast hydroelectric network and pay debt on works already completed or underway.

“My job will be to restrain the increases, but there’s no way we can continue to sell power to customers, whether they’re commercial or industrial or residential, at the rates that we’re selling it right now,” Bennett told reporters at the legislature.

NDP critics focused Thursday on a disaster preparedness audit commissioned by BC Hydro last year. The PricewaterhouseCoopers audit reported in December that BC Hydro is at high risk of a prolonged power outage after a major earthquake because of a lack of coordinated emergency plans.

“BC Hydro is not adequately prepared to react, respond and recover from a widespread catastrophic event such as an earthquake as there is not a mature or integrated preparedness program,” the audit states.

Bennett said BC Hydro has enough staff to improve disaster planning, so that shouldn’t represent a big cost. On that point at least, NDP energy critic John Horgan agreed.

“What the report says is that BC Hydro is not prepared,” Horgan said. “They don’t have any continuity plan for their business to continue. It’s not about money, it’s about being ready.”

BC Hydro spokesperson Simi Heer said the corporation is responding to the audit by accelerating its province-wide emergency response strategy, improving staff training and participating in emergency exercises. Regional emergency operations centres are planned in locations including Port Alberni, Campbell River, Nanaimo, Victoria, Burnaby, Maple Ridge, Prince George and Vernon.

BC Hydro is spending about $2 billion on seismic refits of two of its oldest dams, the John Hart dam at Campbell River and the Ruskin dam on the Mission-Maple Ridge border. Its current expansion project, the Northwest Transmission Line from Terrace to Iskut, was revealed last week to be $140 million over budget.

In April 2012, the B.C. Utilities Commission imposed an extra 2.5 per cent rate increase, bringing the rate increase for the year to seven per cent. That followed a cost-cutting review of BC Hydro that eliminated 700 jobs in an effort to keep the rate increase below four per cent.

The BCUC intervened after former auditor general John Doyle found $2.2 billion of deferred debt, and forecast that would grow to $5 billion by 2017.

Doyle said one reason the utility was piling up debt was to pay an annual dividend to the B.C. government. In 2011 that dividend was $463 million.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Editorial: Mask wearing: innocuous advice has turned into polarizing war

Somehow, this innocuous recommendation has become a polarizing war for some.

UPDATED: Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

Cowichan’s Dillabaugh checks in from the NHL bubble in Toronto

Flyers’ Duncan-born goalie coach weighs in on hockey restart

37-year-old man missing from Cobble Hill area

He is described as a First Nations man, 5 foot 8 in height

Five new handyDART buses serving Cowichan

Buses to replace older vehicles being removed from the fleet

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

More than $800,000 in suspected cocaine seized from ship near Victoria

RCMP Dive Team suspects more narcotics had been stored below ship’s waterline

Most Read