Posts from February, 2009

Campbell Selling Out BC Rivers for Private Power

This post, my first in a while, was triggered by an article I just read by Raif Mair:
The Cat is Out of the Bag – BC Private Power Push All About Exports

I’ve known for some time that BC Hydro is a net exporter of power. When we do import power it’s because the US will sell it to us cheaply during their off-peak hours in exchange for being able to buy it back during peak hours. Their coal fired power plants can’t change their output as quickly as the change in daily demand, so they use BC’s hydro power to even out the peaks and valleys.

I am infuriated by the Campbell government’s attempt (apparently successful) to manufacture consent for privatizing power production in BC by convincing BC residents that WE need the extra power for OUR use. WE DON’T!!! End of story.

In his article, Raif points out that even if we did need the extra power, private hydro projects will produce most of their power during spring run off, exactly when we don’t need it. Therefore, the only possible value in private hydro is the export market, especially given Obama’s mandate to find clean energy sources for the US. As Raif put it:

Our rivers, up to about 700 applications now, will be butchered to warm California swimming pools. Moreover, once we embark down this slippery slope we’re in this forever. We will be, like Bre’r Rabbit, stuck to the tar baby.

For an idea of what those 700 applications look like, here’s a map (courtesy of Private Power Watch):

Private Power Applications in BC

Don’t get me wrong. I think that hydro power IS a clean, renewable resource and it SHOULD be developed further in BC, even for export purposes. Climate change is everyone’s problem and I will concede the possibility that “butchering our rivers” could be the lesser of many evils that could be done to help meet the worlds growing demand for power.

But… and this is a REALLY BIG BUT… why in the world would we not want to retain ownership and control over the resources we’re exporting. How could we be so short-sighted that we’re willing to relinquish ownership of our natural resources premanantly and irrovocably to private corporations. Once these resources are removed from the commons, there’s no going back. We’re giving up control over resources that might come in pretty darn handy as the world runs out of fossil fuels over the next couple centuries. The privatization of BC’s power generation is nothing but a short term cash grab that we will almost certainly regret when we have to compete with the US to purchase the power being generated on our own soil. And hydro power is not the only issue. Wind and other renewable power sources are also at risk.

It’s about situations like this that I often hear people remark “One day our grandchildren are going to look back and wonder what the hell we were thinking”. I WISH that were the case but the sad fact is that our grandchildren likely won’t even know what they’re missing. It is exactly this lack of cross-generational accountability that frees each generation to sacrifice the future of the next.

If you are a BC resident concerned about the privatization of BC’s power, I strongly urge you to write your MLA. For more information and other ways to get involved, check out the Save our Rivers Society and and Private Power Watch.