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

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at Shuswap campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

Sicamous welcomes new doctor

Dr. Carol Connick opened her practice on June 18

Chase RCMP find drugs, fake money and sawed-off shotgun at traffic stop

Two separate incidents in recent weeks result in drug-related arrests.

Beekeepers from Argentina find sweet success in Shuswap

Honey Onyx Apiary is hoping to increase its operations by 200 hives this year

Unexpected snow on Okanagan Connector, Pennask Summit

As of 6:50 a.m. DriveBC cameras displayed surprise snowfall on highway

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

South Okanagan mountain resort sees lengthy snowfall

Snow stayed on the ground for four, says resort manager

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Interior forestry workers ratify five-year contract

It was approved by United Steelworkers Local 1-417, which represents workers in Kamloops, Kelowna

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

Most Read