Gordon Campbell's "Green" Budget

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BC Liberals Deliver Disingenuous Pitch for Private Power
as ‘GREAT GREEN ANSWER’ to BC’s Economic Downturn and
Global Climate Crisis According to Electricity Watchdog Group
by BC Citizens for Public Power
The 2010 British Columbia budget, released today, reinforces the provincial government’s determination to implement its energy policy—as a “green” solution to BC’s economic woes and the global climate crisis—despite serious concerns about its environmental integrity and the conspicuous absence of any business case to justify their trajectory of privatizing BC’s electricity sector.

Melissa Davis, Executive Director with BC Citizens for Public Power, a provincial non-profit energy watchdog organization, criticized the provincial budget as an extension of what she identifies as a “complete lack of transparency” on the part of the government. 

“There is no economic rational or business case to justify the privatization of BC’s electricity sector,” Davis said, noting a recently released research report , by the Joint Industry Electricity Steering Committee, showing that purchasing private power at grossly inflated prices and selling surplus power at significantly lower domestic and export prices—is a disaster that leaves the province with a $450-million annual loss, totaling $9 billion in losses over the next 20 years.

Today’s budget revealed a projected increase in hydro rates of 33% over a four year period (8.74% in 2010; 6.11% for 2011; 11.92% for 2012; and 6.31% for 2013) [BC Hydro Budget & Fiscal Plan, pg. 162].
While Davis concedes that rate increases are inevitable to finance the development of new electricity projects, she qualifies her remarks by claiming that, under the government’s energy policy, BC ratepayers are subsidizing private power developments. The 2002 Energy Plan effectively restructured BC’s Crown utility by strictly prohibiting BC Hydro from developing any new power projects and relegating this responsibility exclusively to the private sector. 

Davis also questioned the government’s unwillingness to make public the submissions received through its Green Energy Advisory Task Force. The provincial government assembled the Task Force in November to examine procurement and regulatory reform; carbon pricing, trading, and export markets; community engagement and First Nations partnerships; and resource development; during a six-week public consultation period, BC organizations/groups and concerned citizens were invited to submit their comments via email.  

Repeated requests for information have been met with refusals, according to Davis, who eventually filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain access to these records. Budget documents released today had a similarly cryptic, secretive quality, Davis said, with multiple references to the Task Force, but no information with respect to findings or recommendations: “The findings or recommendations of the Task Force and Cabinet Committee could affect BC Hydro through impacts on legislation or energy policy, and any such changes will be reflected in future Service Plans. [Crown Service Plan, page 7].”

Initially, the government's rationale for mass private energy production was that it represented the most practical and cost-efficient method of averting an imminent energy crisis by meeting BC’s growing domestic energy requirements. More recently, and in response to energy experts, environmental researchers, and economists refuting such claims, private sector electricity development in BC is now presented as a “green” solution to climate change, through a plan for widespread export to jurisdictions such as California and Alberta.

“This is greenwashing at its finest,” according to Davis. “Creative public affairs messaging, financing astro-turf groups, and wooing high-profile environmentalists to echo the views of government and the private power industry—all to advance its energy policy.”

According to Davis, BCCPP works with numerous allied environmental groups that share a commitment to conservation principles, clean/green energy, and public benefits of Crown utilities. Earlier in the week, the organization issued an announcement that one of BC’s most distinguished environmental authorities, Rex Weyler, would be joining the organization’s public power campaign to assist in the areas of research, analysis, communications, and public engagement.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: BC Citizens for Public Power
For immediate release
March 2, 2010

BC Citizens for Public Power, a provincial non-profit organization established in 2002, promotes and advocates for a publicly owned and integrated system of power production, transmission, and distribution to provide British Columbians with affordable, clean, reliable, and renewable energy.  

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