Geography & Environment Publications


Taming B.C. Hydro: Site C and the implementation of the B.C. Utilities Commission Act

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Environmental Management

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Public policy making in resources management is greatly influenced by the institutional arrangements that arise out of the legal powers, administrative structures, and financial provisions of the decision system. In British Columbia, the institutional arrangements for energy planning in the province have been greatly altered by the passage of the Utilities Commission Act in 1980. This act redefines the policy implementation process for energy in British Columbia and provides for the regulation of the province's power utility, B.C. Hydro. This is the first time that the hitherto autonomous utility has been subject to regulation and the Utilities Commission Act represents a major reform in the institutional arrangements for energy planning in the province. The article evaluates the effectiveness of the 1980 B.C. Utilities Commission Act and assesses the impact of the legislation upon the institutional arrangements for energy planning in the province. Data for the article were derived from written sources and a series of personal interviews with key participants involved with energy planning in B.C.

It is shown that the act represented a major departure in the management of energy resources in B.C. Moreover the implementation of the act's provisions, particularly in regard to B.C. Hydro, had a dramatic impact on the development of new energy projects in the province. It is suggested that while the political and economic climate during the period also favored restraint, the major influence on taming the utility was passage of the Utilities Commission Act. The article concludes by exploring the implications of policy changes that have occurred as a consequence of the act's impact on B.C. Hydro.

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