BCPIAC opposes Ministry of Energy and Mines seeking regulatory exemption for power projects

BCPIAC replied to a call for comments in response to the Ministry of Energy and Mines proposal to exempt the North Montney Power Supply Project and the Peace Region Electricity Supply Project from undergoing a review by BC’s energy utility regulator.

Julie Chace
Director, Transmission and Inter-jurisdiction
Electricity and Alternative Energy Division

Dear Ms. Chace:

Re: Ministry of Energy and Mines proposal to exempt the North Montney Power Supply Project and the Peace Region Electricity Supply Project from regulatory review by the BC Utilities Commission

I am writing to provide comments in response to the Ministry of Energy and Mines (“MEM”) July 31, 2015 email seeking feedback on the proposal to exempt the North Montney Power Supply (“NMPS”) and the Peace Region Electricity Supply (“PRES”) Projects from regulatory review by the BC Utilities Commission (“BCUC”) under Part 3 of the BC Utilities Commission Act (“UCA”).

We oppose removing the NMPS and PRES Projects from an open and independent review by the BCUC under Part 3 of the UCA.

We regularly represent a group of anti-poverty, seniors’ and tenants’ organizations in regulatory proceedings before the BCUC involving BC Hydro. In those regulatory proceedings, we represent the interests of low and fixed income residential ratepayers. It appears that we were not included in the list of organizations that the MEM consultation request was sent to, but your request was forwarded to us by other stakeholders.

We oppose removing the NMPS and PRES Projects from an open and independent review by the BCUC under Part 3 of the UCA. The purpose of regulation under the UCA is to ensure a review by the BCUC in order to determine whether the projects are ultimately in the public interest. A review by the BCUC will provide a full and transparent assessment by an expert tribunal in which members of the public as well as organizations such as ours and other intervenors experienced in utilities regulation can probe the need, cost, siting, alternative options and other relevant issues relating to the proposed Projects.

The provincial government and MEM have exempted several large projects from BCUC oversight in recent years, including the Site C Clean Energy Project, the Northwest Transmission Line, and smart meters. None of those projects received an open and transparent review by the BCUC, and yet BC Hydro ratepayers will likely be ordered to pay all of the billions of dollars in costs related to these projects.

These costs are being forced onto BC Hydro ratepayers by the province at time when residential rate increases are consistently rising and are becoming unsustainable for low income ratepayers.

We therefore ask that should the proponents wish to proceed with the NMPS and PRES projects, that no regulatory exemption be granted, and that both Projects be required to meet all of the requirements in the UCA prior to approval.

Sincerely,
BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Sarah Khan
Staff Lawyer

BC Hydro, provincial and federal governments oppose anti-poverty and seniors’ organizations’ application to intervene in Site C legal cases

For Immediate Release | BCPIAC

Vancouver – BC Hydro and the federal and provincial governments are opposing the participation of anti-poverty and seniors’ groups in Site C Dam Project legal cases.

Active Support Against Poverty, BC Old Age Pensioners’ Organization, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of BC, Disability Alliance BC and Together Against Poverty Society have applied to intervene in support of the Peace Valley Landowner Association (PVLA) challenges in BC Supreme Court and Federal Court of the approval of BC Hydro’s Site C Project, in order to represent the interests of low and fixed income residential ratepayers.

The Site C Project is currently projected to cost almost $9 billion, costs which will eventually have to be paid by BC Hydro ratepayers or taxpayers. The groups are asking for one hour of time in the PVLA’s BC Supreme Court case in order to explain how the flaws in the Site C approval process could result in significant rate increases to low-income ratepayers who are already having difficulty paying electricity bills.

“We plan to focus on the need for a thorough review by the BCUC of the need for and cost of the Site C Project, as recommended by the federal/provincial Joint Review Panel, to ensure that low-income people, including seniors and people with disabilities, aren’t required to pay unnecessary costs for electricity service,” said Sarah Khan, a lawyer with the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre who is representing the groups.

Over the past decade, BC Hydro residential rates have increased by more than 41%, and will rise another 6% on April 1, 2015, for a total increase of 47% over 11 years.  BC Hydro’s rates could increase by another 10.5% between 2016 and 2018. These increases have not been matched by corresponding increases in BC’s welfare rates or minimum wage.

Because of government and BC Hydro opposition, a full day hearing has now been set to decide whether the groups and other intervenors will be allowed to participate before the BC Supreme Court.

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Low income residential ratepayers’ groups apply to intervene in Site C legal cases

For Immediate Release | BCPIAC

Vancouver, BC – Groups representing the interests of low and fixed income residential ratepayers have just applied to the Federal Court to intervene in support of the Peace Valley Landowner Association (PVLA) challenge to the federal approval of BC Hydro’s Site C Dam Project. The groups also plan to apply for intervenor status in the PVLA’s BC Supreme Court challenge against the provincial approval of the Project.

Active Support Against Poverty, BC Old Age Pensioners’ Organization, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of BC, Disability Alliance BC and Together Against Poverty Society are represented by lawyers with the BC Public Interest Advocacy Center (BCPIAC), and if granted intervenor status, will highlight the perspective of BC Hydro ratepayers who are having difficulty paying their electricity bills amidst rising electricity rates.

We’ll focus on the need for a thorough review by the BCUC of the need for and cost of the Site C Project

“We’ll focus on the need for a thorough review by the BCUC of the need for and cost of the Site C Project, as recommended by the federal/provincial Joint Review Panel, to ensure that low-income people, including seniors and people with disabilities, aren’t required to pay unnecessary costs for electricity service,” said Sarah Khan, a lawyer with BCPIAC who is representing the groups.

Over the past decade, BC Hydro residential rates have increased by more than 41%, and will rise another 6% on April 1, 2015, for a total increase of 47% over 11 years.  BC Hydro’s rates could increase by another 10.5% between 2016 and 2018. These increases have not been matched by corresponding increases in BC’s welfare rates or minimum wage.

Gudrun Langolf, Vice President of the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC said that “Between 15 – 20% of BC Hydro’s residential customers are low-income.  Since the Site C Project is currently estimated to cost $8.775 billion, we want to ensure that people who can least afford further rate increases aren’t left paying the bill for a project that hasn’t had a thorough economic review”.

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BC Utilities Commission releases decision on fees for BC Hydro smart meter opt-out program

The BC Utilities Commission released a decision on April 25, 2014 about the fees BC Hydro will be allowed to charge its residential customers under the Meter Choices Program who choose not to have a smart meter installed at their home.

BC Hydro originally planned to install smart meters at every residential customer’s home. In July 2013, following significant opposition by customers, the provincial government directed BC Hydro to provide an opt-out program (with associated charges), available only to those customers who did not already have a smart meter.

Read more about the smart meter opt-out program.