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Lodge would need to pay full cost of connecting up front: BC Hydro

BC Hydro is open to working with Bell 2 Lodge to connect it to the electricity grid, but it also needs to protect its existing customers, said a spokesperson for the publicly owned utility.

"This is a complicated situation and we are open to working with the customer to help them find a solution while ensuring the rest of our customers do not have to subsidize the cost of the new infrastructure through their electricity rates," wrote Mora Scott, a BC Hydro spokesperson, in an email.

BC Hydro is asking the lodge to pay up front the full $3 million cost of a new substation and distribution equipment to connect it to the new Northwest Transmission Line, which passes a few hundred metres away from the lodge.

Mike Watling, a part-owner of the lodge, told The Tyee he's been talking with BC Hydro for two years but is yet to find a solution that would allow him to spread the cost over future years. Meanwhile the lodge spends $250,000 a year on diesel fuel.

"It does seem a little bizarre," he said. "All I know is the answer we've been given doesn't really make sense."

The MLA for Stikine, the NDP's Doug Donaldson, said the lodge's situation shows the provincial government isn't doing enough to support tourism. "They're totally focused on LNG.... Other sectors will inevitably end up suffering and this is an example of that."

BC Hydro's Scott said reducing the 287 kilovolts of power in the line down to the 25 kilovolts needed to be useable for the lodge would require a new substation and new distribution equipment.

The utility's policy is guided by the Electric Tariff, which is approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission, she said. "[It] ensures the cost of new developments or specializations benefiting one customer are covered by that customer.

"In this case, application of the tariff would see the majority of the costs covered by the customer as there is very little chance that the new infrastructure would be used by any other customer and there is no way that revenue generated from the customer could cover the cost of the infrastructure," said Scott.

She confirmed the lodge would need to pay for the substation and distribution equipment, estimated at $3 million, before construction could begin.

The provincial government has said the Northwest Transmission Line is intended to end northern communities' reliance on diesel and to provide power for industrial users, particularly mines. Scott said the users of the Northwest Transmission Line will pay for the infrastructure, based on the amount of electricity they use, so other BC Hydro customers don't pay for the new line.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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