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'Power Smart' Conservation Goals Dropped after Program Fell Short, Dix Charges

Minister fires back, says BC meets legislated energy targets.

By Andrew MacLeod 24 Feb 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

After failing to meet its goal for energy conservation through the Power Smart program, BC Hydro this year dropped the target from its annual service plan, NDP critic for BC Hydro, Adrian Dix, charged in the legislature Tuesday.

"I guess if there's no goal to shoot at, even the minister can't miss the net," Dix said.

Power Smart is a program that offers BC Hydro customers advice, rebates and other incentives to improve energy efficiency in their homes or other buildings.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett responded that BC Hydro has pared back its energy-saving programs to focus on the ones that work best, but the Crown utility is still exceeding the conservation goals set in the Clean Energy Act.

"Actually, the member is incorrect," Bennett told the legislative assembly. "In the Clean Energy Act, which we passed in 2010, he would find that the target of 66 per cent of all incremental demand for electricity must be met by conservation."

BC Hydro is exceeding that target and has in fact met over 70 per cent of all incremental new electricity demand through conservation, Bennett said.

That means that when there's new demand for power from BC Hydro, a significant part of the needed electricity is to come from existing customers saving energy. The idea is to limit the need for more expensive sources of electricity, such as from new generation projects.

Bennett's answer failed to satisfy Dix, who argued that while the law sets a minimum standard, more ambitious conservation goals were included in BC Hydro's service plans, the Integrated Resource Plan from 2013 and the minister's past comments in the legislature.

"When you spend hundreds of millions of dollars and you dramatically miss your targets again and again and again, it's not the targets' fault," Dix said. "It was BC Hydro and the minister that failed to achieve the target. You don't conserve more energy by hiding the results and taking away the comparison."

Missed goal

Power Smart cost $400 million over the last three years and missed its target to save 6,300 gigawatt hours last year by 1,300 gigawatt hours, Dix said. "That's a big miss, even by Liberal standards."

By removing the goals for Power Smart from the service plan, Bennett is making it "so that B.C. ratepayers who pay for it can't measure its success or failure," Dix said.

Outside the legislature, Bennett said that BC Hydro is looking at demand side management, or DSM, programs and analyzing how much they cost for every megawatt hour of power they save.

"Hydro is doing what I think ratepayers would want Hydro to do, which is regularly analyze the DSM program and make sure that ratepayers are getting value for money," he said.

In an interview, Dix said that it's clear Power Smart is not being supported or meeting its targets. "They'd rather sell than conserve," Dix said, noting BC Hydro has too much supply of electricity. "This shows the continuing attempts to find demand."

Plans for new transmission lines, proposals to sell power to Alberta and new rates for industrial users are all evidence that even without the Site C dam, which is under construction on the Peace River, BC Hydro has too much power, Dix said. "They don't have a market for Site C power, and they're racing around trying to find one."  [Tyee]

Read more: Energy, BC Politics

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