A month short of the one-year anniversary of his ouster from the B.C. Liberal party, Paul Nettleton’s reaction to proposed BC Hydro rate increases is a profound lack of surprise.
“It’s well-known that I warned about ‘hiccups’ at Hydro following privatization. Well, here’s a hiccup,” said the Prince George-Omineca MLA, kicked out of the Liberal caucus November 18 last year after publicly criticizing his own government’s plans for the Crown corporation.
Nettleton was responding to comments from BC Hydro boss Larry Bell at the Vancouver Board of Trade. Bell admitted the company will ask for its first rate increase in 10 years.
Bell said he is looking for annual increases in the range of three to 6.5 per cent for three years in order to meet future capital costs. Those costs are estimated to be in the one to one and a half per cent range on $32 billion in assets.
B.C. Citizens for Public Power, a lobby group against the breakup of BC Hydro, suggests ratepayers will be paying 30 per cent more for electricity in 10 years.
Nettleton goes further. He says, based on Bell’s figures, the company could theoretically increase rates by 65 per cent in 10 years.
“This is the very thing the public was worried about,” he said. “‘What’s going to happen to our hydro rates? Will we still have the third lowest rates in North America?’ Obviously, such rates will be a thing of the past.”
Nettleton blames what he says is the “deregulation” of hydro rates.
His former colleagues call it “reregulation”.
The Liberal government has returned the decision-making power over hydro rates to the B.C. Utilities Commission after a decade of direct control from the provincial government. The commission will have the power of approval for rate increases, as it does with natural gas rates.