On February 4, 2015, the B.C. government released the final report of an independent review of the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC), the independent governmental regulatory agency that regulates British Columbia’s natural gas and electricity utilities, intra-provincial pipelines and universal compulsory automobile insurance.
The final report, which is dated November 14, 2014, is available here.
Launched in April 2014, the BCUC review was conducted by an independent task force appointed by the B.C. government with a view toward increasing the BCUC’s effectiveness and efficiency, prior to resuming its role in setting BC Hydro rates in 2017 pursuant to the 10 Year Plan for BC Hydro, as we noted in a prior blog post.
The final report addresses key findings arising from the review by providing 35 recommendations on restoring a strong and independent BCUC. The B.C. government’s response to those recommendations is availablehere.
One of the recommendations set forth in the final report is that the B.C. government should make use of Section 5 of the Utilities Commission Act (British Columbia) for projects and plans that it may otherwise wish to exempt from BCUC review. Section 5 requires the BCUC, on Cabinet’s request, to provide advice on any matter regardless of whether or not it is a matter in respect of which the BCUC otherwise has jurisdiction, allowing a review and recommendations by the BCUC while giving the B.C. government the authority to make the final decision. The B.C. government indicated that the government will consider making use of Section 5 when appropriate.
Examples of projects that were exempted from BCUC review but that could be sent for review and recommendation under Section 5 include:
- the Northwest Transmission Line, a 287 kilovolt transmission line between the Skeena substation and Bob Quinn Lake;
- Mica Units 5 and 6, a project to install two additional turbines and related works and equipment at BC Hydro’s Mica facility;
- Revelstoke Unit 6, a project to install an additional turbine and related works and equipment at BC Hydro’s Revelstoke facility; and
- Site C, a project to build a third dam on the Peace River in northeast British Columbia (discussed in a prior blog post).