EDITORIAL: Minister faces power struggle

Energy Minister Rich Coleman has a new challenge.

Energy Minister Rich Coleman has a new challenge.

This time it’s BC Hydro, which has seemingly grown in size and cost with barely a glance from the B.C. Liberal government, which is charged with overseeing the Crown corporation.

In its early days, it powered numerous sawmills, pulp mills and other industrial establishments, and also served a growing export market.

However, in the last 25 years, Hydro has done little in the way of building. Most of its work has been retrofits and upgrades to existing dams and generating facilities.

The B.C. economy has changed dramatically in that time. Large industrial users are no longer the dominant force they once were. Hydro serves a wide range of customers, including an ever-increasing number of residential customers.

Under former premier Gordon Campbell, the government initially tried to break up Hydro by separating the distribution and generating arms. While they have been rejoined, another aspect of government policy was to keep Hydro away from small run-of-river hydro projects, but commit it to buy their output at rates much higher than the electricity it produced itself.

Hydro has proposed a 32-per cent rate increase, something that appalled Premier Christy Clark and she asked Coleman to review that plan. He appointed a committee of three deputy ministers, and they came out with a report that recommends cutting the rate increase in half and reducing Hydro’s work force.

Coleman will be looking over the report. He needs to recommend to cabinet a sound energy policy which will keep rates under control and keep low-cost and clean power key to B.C.’s economic development.

– Langley Times