Simon Fraser University


John Calvert

Questioning Hydro’s move to privatize

October 18, 2007

John Calvert (above) is sounding the death knell on secure, reliable and affordable public electricity in B.C.    

An associate professor of health sciences, Calvert’s new book, Liquid Gold: Energy Privatization in British Columbia (Fernwood Publishing: 2007) is one of the first detailed examinations of the B.C. government’s policy changes to deregulate and privatize B.C.’s electricity system.

Calvert, a board member for B.C. Citizens for Public Power, says he wrote the book “because I was really concerned about the direction of the B.C. government’s policy with respect to B.C. Hydro and, more broadly, with respect to our electricity system.”

“The policy framework and energy plan,” he says, “are deeply prejudicial to rate payers and our ability to maintain public control over the future of our electricity system.”

Calvert notes that the energy plan arbitrarily forbids B.C. Hydro from building new generation facilities, even though, he says, “the experience with public ownership has been extremely beneficial for the province, giving us security of supply, very affordable energy and a very reliable energy system.”

Now, B.C. Hydro will no longer produce its own energy but must instead purchase it via expensive long-term energy contracts with private power developers.

Calvert is also concerned that the new government policy integrates B.C.’s electricity system into the Pacific Northwest grid and facilitates the ability of private interests to export energy. This, he says, is not in B.C.’s long-term interest.

“I also don’t see any reason why the government should be pushing so hard to have small hydro projects built when much better options are available,” he says, “such as returning the downstream benefits under the Columbia River treaty.” He says these benefits are B.C.’s entitlement to electricity generated in the U.S. based on storage of water in B.C.’s reservoirs.