BC Hydro pays $150,000 a day to an Alberta power corporation to be in standby mode
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BC Hydro admits it is paying an Alberta power corporation $150,000 a day, just to be on standby.
The power plant is offline, in standby mode, and will stay that way unless Vancouver Island loses power.
Then the company must have things up and running on 24-hour notice.
BC Hydro says it’s just the cost of doing business.
“The amount we are paying them is to be a back-up resource, to be on standby. So you have to have the equipment in place, it has to be maintained, there has to be staff there, they have to be ready and able at any moment to start up,” says Chris O’Riley, BC Hydro Executive Vice-President.
“That is the service that we are asking of them, and they are providing it. We think that is good value for our customers. Electricity is important to the province and to the people of Vancouver Island, and that is what we are paying for.”
Capital Power of Alberta has locked out 14 employees in a labour dispute, but says it can run the plant with four managers.
But Alberta Power’s ability to run the plant with management staff leaves the union with serious safety concerns.
“We have operated this facility in approximately the last 18 months as an emergency generator available to be brought online in 24 hours,” says Frank Sputek, VP of CEP local 1123 in Campbell River. “In doing that, we have achieved $150,000 a day. We effectively make more money when we are in dispatch mode than when we are running.”
“What is going on there right now is just unheard of,” says Sputek. “The safety authorities are aware of it, and I think that they need to have discussions, certainly with the people down there. And if they believe for a second that these particular power engineers that are down there now can operate that without this workforce, they should really think twice before they actually roll the dice on that.”
Capital Power says no worries.
“People who are inside the facility have more than 30 years combined experience working at island generation, and more than 75 years combined experience working in the natural gas power generation industry,” says Michael Sheehan with Capital Power Corporation.
But O’Riley says they are taking safety very seriously.
“We have received insurances from the company that the people they have running the plant are experienced and have the technical qualifications to that work, so we are satisfied on that score.”
There is no word if and when capital power and the communications, energy and paper workers who are locked out might resume negotiations.