VICTORIA – In light of the failure of the B.C. Liberal government to stick to its own deadline to implement the $1 billion smart meter program, New Democrats are calling on the government to ask the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) to step in.
“This was a failure of public policy from the beginning,” said New Democrat energy critic John Horgan. “There are a huge number of people across the province who are uncomfortable with this technology. It’s no surprise that with days to go, we learn there are about 140,000 units not installed.”
The government announced Thursday that B.C. Hydro would not be able to meet the Dec. 31, 2012 deadline to have smart meters installed in every home in the province, primarily due to customers refusing the installations. The new deadline has been pushed by a full year to Dec. 31, 2013.
“The Liberals are clearly not up to the challenges facing British Columbians, so it’s time to get some help. I’d like to see the B.C. Utilities Commission invited back to the table to help explore what options are out there to satisfy concerned consumers that want another choice,” said Horgan.
Horgan noted the Liberals rushed through the Clean Energy Act in 2010 with almost no debate in the legislature. The act exempted the $1 billion smart meter program from the independent oversight of the BCUC, along with billions more in major spending by B.C. Hydro. The smart meter regulation also spells out the date which the smart meters must be installed by, meaning B.C. Hydro will be out of compliance with the law as of Jan. 1, 2013.
“The experts at the independent utilities commission are much better placed to solve these problems than a tired Liberal government that started with a bad idea, and now is just out of ideas,” said Horgan.
Horgan said Liberal mismanagement is running B.C. Hydro into the ground, leading to skyrocketing rates for consumers. In addition to problems with the billion-dollar smart meter program, they’ve signed unnecessary and expensive long-term contracts with IPPs, and have no plan to repay more than $4 billion currently hidden in deferral accounts.
B.C. Auditor General John Doyle issued a scathing report in October 2011 that showed B.C. Hydro is set to hide $5 billion in deferral accounts by 2017, resulting in significant costs which “may be unfairly passed on to future ratepayers who receive little or no benefit.” Doyle’s report said the accounting tricks create “the appearance of profitability where none actually exists.”
“British Columbians are going to be paying for the Liberal government’s mismanagement for years to come,” said Horgan.
B.C.’s New Democrats are committed to restoring the regulatory role of the B.C. Utilities Commission, and will take practical steps to get B.C. Hydro back on its feet to bring greater stability and proper long-term planning to British Columbia’s energy policy.
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