By The Canadian Press - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 0 Comments
VICTORIA – The massive, energy windfall British Columbia pocketed more than a decade ago…
VICTORIA – The massive, energy windfall British Columbia pocketed more than a decade ago at the expense of power-starved Californians has sparked an ongoing high-voltage legal case that currently has an arm of Crown-owned BC Hydro potentially owing hundreds of millions of dollars.
A judge with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled earlier this month that California could recover up to $1.6 billion from several power companies, including BC Hydro’s electricity trading subsidiary, Powerex, after energy prices spiked up to 900 per cent in 2000 and 2001.
“As the power marketer of BC Hydro, Powerex worked closely with BC Hydro to maximize the value of BC Hydro’s system,” said the 72-page ruling. “This relationship involved selling BC Hydro’s energy in the U.S. when prices were high and buying energy in the U.S. and sending it to Canada when prices were low.”
A Powerex official said the company will appeal the ruling and is preparing for the 12-year-old legal battle to last another five years.
B.C. Energy Minister Rich Coleman said the province will continue to defend its position that it sold power during the California energy crisis at market prices and there was no price-gouging involved.
“We believe we did not operate in any way that was in any way fraudulent or problematic,” said Coleman. “We’ve been fighting this thing for the 10-year period and we’ll continue to go back (to court). The FERC decision is only part of the process. We will continue to go through the courts for many years, I suspect.”
“Of everything I’ve read, Powerex did their business properly and they weren’t involved in any price fixing,” he said.
Opposition New Democrat energy critic John Horgan supported Coleman’s assertion that Powerex was taking advantage of extraordinary market opportunities but not manipulating prices.
“I’m confident that what happened was in the confines of a free market,” he said. “We provided energy. We didn’t game the system.”
The NDP was the B.C. government during the California power sales and hydro profits from the sales padded the province’s revenues and also allowed former premier Ujjal Dosanjh to provide British Columbians with a $100 cheque just before the 2001 provincial election, which the NDP lost.
Powerex is one of more than a dozen power companies named in the FERC decision and was accused of manipulating the energy market by dramatically increasing the price of power.
California launched an ongoing lawsuit alleging the companies fixed the high prices.
FERC spokesman Craig Cano said several energy companies have already technically refunded almost $8 billion to California. Enron was part of that $8 billion, but the company collapsed and several executives were jailed.
“There was, no pun intended, a Wild West sort of mentality in the markets and as a result, these cases are still going on,” Cano said.
The FERC decision does include estimates of how much money Powerex should refund.
The Powerex official did not deny the company made about $1 billion during the California crisis. Powerex is also seeking about $265 million from California in what it claims are unpaid power bills.
Powerex said since 2001 there have been numerous California lawsuits against Powerex and 60 other energy firms.
The most recent FERC decision involves 16 U.S. and Canadian energy sellers, including Powerex.
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 4:02 PM - 5 Comments
Green marketing can change the world. It can also help firms reap big profits.
In August, the B.C. chapter of the American Marketing Association announced its 2009 Marketer of the Year. The award didn’t go to a car company, restaurant or a bank—it went to B.C. Hydro, the province’s public utility. B.C. Hydro won for a series of television spots advertising its Power Smart campaign, which asks B.C. residents to cut their energy consumption by 10 per cent. The commercials offer simple solutions: turning off a light, for example, or unplugging cellphone chargers when not in use. Largely thanks to those ads, 34,000 people joined the Power Smart program in 2008, a jump of 273 per cent from the previous year.
Old habits die hard, and change isn’t easy, but that doesn’t make it impossible. Just as past public service campaigns have hammered home important messages—stop smoking, don’t drink and drive—advertisers are now working to convince people to make environmentally sustainable choices, even if they’re more time consuming, or expensive. “It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance and lowest cost,” says ad critic Bob Garﬁeld. Yet campaigns like the one from B.C. Hydro show that, if it’s done right, green marketing can spur real change. For businesses involved, it can generate proﬁts, too. Continue…