Rafe Mair: Beware the Gordon Campbell government's non sequitor on run-of-river power

By Rafe Mair  

As I make my way around the province I find the following the greatest area of misunderstanding--a misunderstanding fostered and encouraged by the government and the private river people--to be that private power will help take care of B.C.'s energy needs.

When lawyers see a statement like "fish live in water, therefore I must visit the North Pole", they call it a non sequitur; literally "it does not follow".

The Campbell government and the power producers have a pronounced a classic non sequitur in the private-power debate. They say, "British Columbia needs or will need power therefore we must have private "run of river" projects."

Remember that electricity in bulk cannot be stored and must be used as it is created. B.C. Hydro "stores" electricity by creating a reservoir behind its dams, which can be used to turn its generators.

For all intents and purposes, private river plants do not have the ability to store significant amounts of water. In fact they boast of the fact that they don't create reservoirs. They must, then, rely upon the quantity of the river flow.

The amount of energy produced by private power must come from the spring run-off; when the height of the river drops, as it does after run-off, little if any electricity can be created.

It does not then follow that if we need power, we can use private river projects. That's  because the vast majority of power created by private projects comes at the same time B.C. Hydro's reservoirs are full, thus have no use for private river power.

In short, the only use for private power is export ,which is what Donald McInnis, CEO of the Plutonic/General Electric partnership freely admits.

The new minister of Energy, Blair Lekstrom, has said this in a letter to several newspapers: NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) "is not part of our energy mix".

This abysmal ignorance should alarm us all. Whether or not we get involved with NAFTA is not a matter for Mr. Lekstrom to decide but happens automatically when you ship power over the border.

It must be realized that NAFTA is calculated to help the corporate world. It's not a matter of whether or not NAFTA applies but HOW it applies.

For the minister to have made such a statement shows either abysmal ignorance or egregious arrogance or both.

And it indicates one more time that the Campbell government has no time for honestly putting its schemes before the public.

If Gordon Campbell is reelected, the enormous Bute Inlet project of Plutonic/General Electric will be approved--17 rivers involved--and with that precedent, there'll be no way to turn down future private power applications.

B.C. will be in the business of being the biggest supplier of energy in the western United States, and river after river will become suppliers of that power. The profits of that power will not go to the people of B.C. but to shareholders, like Warren Buffet at General Electric.

If you plan to vote Liberal or Green, beware of what the consequences will be.

Rafe Mair, a broadcaster and  former  Social Credit cabinet minister,  initially wrote this column for Save Our Rivers.

Related articles: Flogging Our Water, Electric Companies, Independent candidate Vicki Huntington raises run-of-river diversions, Gold rush on B.C. rivers stalled, Economy won't halt B.C.'s run-of-river hydroelectric projects, Province has 8,000 potential run-of-river power sites: B.C. Hydro, Power play in Pinecone Burke Provincial Park, Eagles' fate at centre of Squamish run-of-river debate, Water applications breach Garibaldi Provincial Park, Public pours cold water on upper Pitt run-of-river project, Upper Pitt protesters came for "free lunch", MLA says, Steve Davis: Independent power producers generate green energy and  jobs  in B.C.,  Gwen Barlee: Private run-of-river power projects make no sense in B.C., Craig Orr: What is your government doing for wild salmon?, David Suzuki: Run-of-river power projects may offer green energy solutions  



ezekiel bones

Apr 11, 2009 at 9:03pm

Rafe you are my favourite former Socred minister.

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Apr 12, 2009 at 2:32pm


BChydro has contracted to buy that power at an average cost to the taxpayer of 12 cents a kwh over the next forty years and as Rafe states must export basically all of it.

With the going wholesale rate at 3 cents, mass produced solar PV at 1 cent, generation 3.5 nuclear at 2 cents,solar boiler at 3 cents, and ten year down the road pulse nuclear at .5 cents, who is the Gordo going to sell this 12 cent a kwh power to.

With 40 billion in taxpayer commitments to pirate power and likely another 40 billion over the next 4 years with Gordo and gangs reelection, the taxpayer is at risk to losing almost the entire 80 billion dollars.

Makes one look back with nostalgia at the mere 200 million fast ferry loss. Those were good times.

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Randy Boy

Apr 13, 2009 at 11:17am

Plutonic CEO Donald McInnes was caught with his pants down lying about his companies political contributions to the BC Liberals.


This is from:


In fact according to BC Elections, Plutonic has donated $51,906 since 2006. McInnes has personally contributed $34, 575 since 2001 to the BC Liberals. Tom Syer and other Plutonic executives donated $9065 since 2005 to the party. Add this to General Electric’s total of $16,987 and you get $112,533. Not bad for billions of dollars in Energy Purchase Agreements.

See my earlier blog on over $800,000 in political contibutions to the BC Liberals from IPP indusrty here.

Also a look at the movement of Key BC Liberal insiders ot the IPP industry, including Geoff Plant.


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Apr 16, 2009 at 11:21am

2 cents a KWh for nuclear energy production? Which planet do you come from?

Its at least 20 cents, and that does not include the disposal of the wastes.

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