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The green energy cure for B.C.’s debt

May 7, 2010

Columnist Keith Baldrey recently pointed out (in a column about the Site C project) that B.C.’s total provincial debt will hit almost $56 billion by 2012-13.  Definintely not an insubstantial amount.

Our recently released BCCGE Triple Legacy Report also beamed a spotlight on B.C.’s growing provincial debt and juxtaposed it to the considerable public revenue that could be generated for the people of B.C. by harnessing the province’s immense, but largely untapped, renewable green energy resources.  

As our Triple Legacy report demonstrated, B.C.’s renewable wind, run-of-river, biomass, geothermal, wave and tidal energy resources have the potential to generate billions of dollars in public revenues — revenues that could be used to pay down or even wipe out the province‘s debt and eventually even replace the revenue now raised through the provincial sales tax. 

But enough about us and our Triple Legacy Report: back to Keith Baldrey and Site C.

As Baldrey correctly points out, the $6.6 billion Site C project is “simply the latest addition to a growing list of expensive infrastructure projects” here in B.C., many of which are BC Hydro projects that represent multi-billion dollar reinvestments in the province’s core hydroelectric generating infrastructure built in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  

As Baldrey states: “the Site C dam won’t even cost as much as all the other capital projects that BC Hydro is quietly embarking upon.”

Here’s what else Baldrey had to say about BC Hydro’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure upgrading and reinvestment program:  

“The Crown corporation needs to upgrade, renovate or expand its massive network of power generation and transmission around the province (the Site C dam is actually the only “new” facility Hydro is building). 

More than $3.5 billion is being spent on 11 projects alone, and another nine projects are being contemplated, with a similar cost likely attached to them. When all capital spending is included, the spending rises to more than $8.5 billion.

Throw in Site C’s anticipated $6-$7 billion price tag, and the total capital spending by BC Hydro will hit more than $15 billion over the next decade.

This is a staggering amount of money, and is proof the Crown corporation is not being mothballed or even downgraded by the provincial government, as the ideologically driven opponents of private power projects insist.”

Baldrey goes on to talk about some of the other capital projects the province is taking on such as five new secondary schools being built at a cost of more than $300 million (in Revelstoke, Chilliwack, Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Alberni) and five hospitals getting major upgrades or expansions (in Surrey, Kelowna, Victoria, Vernon and Fort St. John) along with two new hospital facilities being built in the north and the Interior.

And although Baldrey feels “the merits of Site C are a matter of debate,” he acknowledges that “few would argue with the merits of most of these projects” on an individual basis.

As Baldrey states:

“There’s no question that BC Hydro has to spend whatever it takes to ensure our energy supply system remains safe and available. (The merits of Site C are a matter of debate, however.)

And everyone always seems to be clamouring for bigger and better health-care facilities, and improvements to roads and bridges.

As well, this kind of massive capital spending acts as a stimulus for the economy. It means thousands of jobs will be created, and the public will get a lot of use from these projects over a period of decades.”

There’s certainly no question that looking after our energy generating infrastructure and keeping it in good working order is important.  

However, there’s also no getting around the fact that BC Hydro is raising its rates to pay for the billions of dollars they’re spending, much to the chagrin of many BC Hydro ratepayers who’ve enjoyed artificially low electricity costs for a generation or more.  

There’s also no getting around the fact that, in many respects, much of what we’re paying for now is the result of the neglect of our hydroelectric power generating infrastructure during the 1990s and a failure to plan ahead. 

For whatever reason, the NDP government of the 1990s didn’t have the financial wherewithal to keep things in good working order. They even had to crank up the gas-fired, cold war era Burrard Thermal to sell electricity to California to pick up some quick cash near the end of their term.

But that’s all in the past, and as Baldrey says, BC Hydro’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure upgrading and reinvestment program means “thousands of jobs will be created” in B.C. and it serves as “proof the Crown corporation is not being mothballed or even downgraded by the provincial government, as the ideologically driven opponents of private power projects insist.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2010 11:27 am

    Nice site. Theres some good information on here. Ill be checking back regularly.

  2. NoPublicWaste permalink
    May 9, 2010 11:30 pm

    The NDP firing up the dinosaur GHG spewing and money guzzling Burrard Thermal was just to appease the public unions who receive huge salaries at Burrard Thermal, and was a crime.

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