Cheap electricity for mining, oil and gas companies means higher bills for BC’s residential customers, more greenhouse gas emissions

June 20, 2012

(Vancouver) A new study warns that mining, oil and gas corporations are putting increasingly large demands on BC’s hydroelectricity system – essentially using clean energy to power industries that pollute the environment and release large amounts of greenhouse gases. While the study sounds an alarm, it also presents a positive alternative vision.

“The heart of this study is hopeful,” says John Calvert, co-author of Clean Electricity, Conservation and Climate Justice in BC: Meeting Our Energy Needs in a Zero-Carbon Future. “Here in BC we should be able to meet our energy needs while sharply reducing — and eventually eliminating — our greenhouse gas emissions.”

One of the key concerns raised by Calvert and co-author Marc Lee is the low rate that industrial customers pay for electricity in BC — lower than residential rates, and roughly one third the cost that BC Hydro pays to acquire new electricity supply.  

“When we offer cheap electricity to these dirty industries, it’s ordinary British Columbian households and small businesses who end up footing the bill,” says Lee. “Even if the government delays rate increases for political reasons, they’re still coming.”

Other key findings of the study include:

  • The three major components of BC’s current economic development strategy – mines, natural gas projects, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants – are very energy intensive but currently account for only 1% of employment in BC.
  • The province plans to invest in new transmission lines to northern BC for the benefit of natural gas and mining companies, not residential customers; this expense will likely be reflected in higher rates for all customers.
  • There are few requirements on industry to conserve electricity.
  • To meet the industrial demands for electricity, the province has forced BC Hydro to buy additional power from private suppliers. This private power is very expensive, contributing to even higher rates for residential customers.

The report includes seven recommendations for overhauling BC’s energy planning, including focusing on reducing GHG emissions, ramping up efficiency and conservation measures, protecting low-income households from rate increases, and ending subsidies to polluting industries that create few jobs for British Columbians.

"BC lacks a long term plan for conserving energy and moving away from fossil fuels, says Lee. "BC Hydro can and should be at the heart of an aggressive climate action strategy."


Information or interviews: Sarah Leavitt: [email protected], 604-801-5121, x233

Download Clean Electricity, Conservation and Climate Justice in BC: Meeting Our Energy Needs in a Zero-Carbon Future: