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 December 23, 2009
NDP wants audit of B.C. Hydro's private-power deals

 Wilderness Committee national campaign director Joe Foy wants B.C.'s auditor general to investigate the sums of money involved in the long-term power-purchase agreements B.C. Hydro has signed with independent power producers.

"We've never needed our auditor general more than right now," Foy told the Straight earlier this month. "The people of B.C. are at more risk right now than just about any other time I can think of. Our citizens are in dire straits."

Provincial revenues have plummeted, while Foy estimates B.C. Hydro will owe private power companies "over $30 billion" through "secret contracts" the utility signed with them. He said B.C. Hydro could end up owing independent producers more money than the provincial debt.

"That means that not only is B.C. Hydro at risk of going under, I think we are all going to be at risk of going under," Foy said.

On the subject of bringing in the auditor general, NDP energy critic John Horgan told the Straight, "I agree with Joe."

Horgan said that, while the spot-market price for electricity fluctuates, it averages $50 per megawatt hour. The lowest price "quoted with any authority" that B.C. Hydro has agreed to pay to independent producers is $88 per megawatt hour, he added.

"So, we're not making money; we're losing money," Horgan said. "And that has had an impact on Hydro's ability to provide revenue to the Crown. That strikes me, and it strikes [NDP finance critic] Bruce Ralston---the chair of public accounts---as an issue worthy of investigation. And I believe that he's going to be writing to the auditor and seeing what he plans to do about it."

B.C. Hydro spokesperson Susan Danard told the Straight the B.C. Utilities Commission regulates the Crown corporation and requires all power-purchase agreements to be made available on the BCUC Web site.

Danard added that "there are some redactions" if the information is deemed to be of a commercially sensitive nature.

"What's redacted is [removed] in conjunction with the proponents," Danard said.

By Matthew Burrows