The big picture

Editorial; by Brian Coombs - Kootenay News Advisor - The big picture

OK. So our hydro rates are going to go up nearly 30 per cent over the next five years. A lot of people are saying that this is a travesty, but they are obviously not seeing the big picture.

To start, this is something that the people of this province have been warned about since the 2002 edict stating that BC Hydro was no longer permitted to build new dams, run-of-the-rive projects or any new energy project. The one project in the cue, the Site C dam, is an exception to this rule.

Numerous reputable news agencies pointed out that forcing BC Hydro to purchase energy from independent power producers (IPPs) was going to drive up costs. The utility was mandated to purchase this power, on extended contracts, whether the demand was high or low. This means that even if the power wasn’t being used, it was paid for. The BC Utilities Commission even stated that this move was not in the public’s interest, but what do they know?

As many have pointed out the flaws in this system before and these articles are easy to find this article will not go over that ground again. The Coles Notes version is that BC Hydro was mandated to buy high and sell low.

While this may seem counter-intuitive to most people, the government was obviously looking toward the big picture.

Now this big picture isn’t that the province (meaning the residents) is going to be on the hook for around $50 billion over the next few decades, (we are), it is about some things actually good for us. Remember, money isn’t everything.

The government is now suggesting that we start to conserve energy. This is an admirable goal and something that could be great for the environment. Adding nearly 30 per cent to our hydro bills means a host of other potential benefits, especially for those on fixed incomes or living below the poverty line. Here are just a few:

• Paying this much more for energy means that some people may have to give up some vices. Kicking the smoking or drinking habit will definitely free up some cash to pay to keep the house warm. That can only be a good thing.

• This can be a huge boon to the solar power sector. While expensive at the moment, prices are sure to come down in the near future and getting your home less dependent on the grid is a very good thing. It is as good a thing as taking our power from the water that flows abundantly through our province via infrastructure already in place.

• People squander electricity. Do people have to keep their computers on 24 hours a day? Do we need to have every light in the house on? Does everyone have to run their refrigerators every day? Do those with electrical heating need their homes warmer than 12 degrees during the winter? We can afford to do without some of these things.

• We don’t need to have extra cash on hand to buy a coffee, eat at a restaurant or buy items from a local store. Making do with what is at hand is what our ancestors did and should this put some people out of business, well, they shouldn’t have been trying to live on such slim margins anyway.

• Many of us could stand to lose a few pounds. You may be saving money for your hydro bill by not eating at a restaurant, but know that those supermarkets and food producers have to pay electrical bills for refrigeration. As their costs go up, they will pass those onto the consumer. This may mean a few less potatoes on the table for some, but their body-mass index will improve. Skinny is in right now.

• Speaking in terms of large organizations, hospitals really don’t need as much electricity as they use. If they insist on keeping up their current levels of energy consumption, they can always save money elsewhere. Getting rid of staff is a way to balance those books, or maybe cutting back on emergency room hours. In that vein, many of us will be helping them pay the bills in another way. Shopping at the hospital auxiliary or thrift shops is a great way to stay garbed while keeping within our new, energy-reduced budgets.

• Manufacturers will also have to pay more for energy. Again, this is not really a problem. If they pass the cost on to us, we can afford to do with less, or we can just stop buying locally made products in favour of the much cheaper ones coming from outside the country–keeping our trading partners happy.

These are just a few examples of cutting back the fat, so to speak. So it is comforting to know that our government had our best interests at heart all along and this is not some amazingly inept and costly travesty at our expense. The big picture vision has us all leaner and more self sufficient.

Thanks BC Government for helping us to conserve. Really.

By  Brian Coombs – Kootenay News Advertiser