Performance Based Ratemaking (PBR) and You: A Ratepayer and Union Overview

PBR is becoming very popular across North America because it significantly reduces a utility’s expensive and time-intensive reporting and regulatory work for a couple of years while incentivizing the implementation of cost efficiencies through a savings-sharing mechanism that splits the money saved between the ratepayers and the utilities’ shareholders.  The regulator removes the leash and the company is set loose to operate within a set of targets and formulas.

In the end, if you are a ratepayer or a union representing utility workers operating under a PBR then these issues do affect you.  

So how do you ensure your service or your members aren’t unfairly compromised?  You get informed and then, you come to the table and you fight for your rights, your jobs, and your utility.

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Supreme Court Rulings Squeeze Utility Workers

Once every decade or so, the Supreme Court of Canada issues a decision in the field of utility regulation. These are invariably landmark cases that have a huge impact on the regulation of energy and other utilities across the country, and the tens of billions of dollars that these public and private companies collect from Canadian customers each year. These decisions are very important not only for the companies and their customers, but also for their employees.

Two Supreme Court rulings released today are about utility workers’ pay and benefits.  One was about compensation costs in the collective agreement covering Ontario nuclear plant employees, and the other was about pension cost-of-living adjustments at ATCO, a large private utility in Alberta. 

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BC Liberals "sweeten the deal" for Petronas at all of our expense

Jim spoke with CFAX Radio's Ian Jessop on Tuesday about the BC Liberal government's "absolutely ridiculous" deal with Petronas. The Liberals are trying to bind BC into a 25-year deal that would see extremely limited benefits for British Columbians and big advantages to the Malaysian oil and gas company.

Have a listen here. Jim's segment starts at about the 6:50 mark. Skip to 27:45 to hear a short discussion on how First Nations' opposition may impact the proposed deal.

Utility Regulation Demystified – Part 2, the Energy Policy Dilemma

The energy sector is one of the most complex and difficult areas of policy in the world today.  Energy policy-makers and regulators face a three-cornered dilemma. The imperatives of each corner tend to defeat the others. The competing objectives are:

1.  maintaining sufficient reliable energy supply

2.  maintaining affordability and accessibility

3.  mitigating climate change and other environmental degradations

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Utility Regulation Demystified – Part 1, Origins and Basic Principles

Despite a wave of deregulation which came into vogue in the early 1980’s, many important services and systems we all rely upon are overseen by regulatory agencies and tribunals who set the prices for services, determine minimum service standards, and approve major contracts, projects and capital investments.  Here in British Columbia, for example, our electricity and gas utilities are supervised by the BC Utilities Commission, as is the mandatory coverage program of the provincial government’s monopoly automobile insurance provider, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

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Electricity Net Metering and Feed-in Tariffs, and the Law of Unintended Consequences

There is no magic solution to the damage that our use of energy inflicts on the earth’s climate, other than conservation.  Every other strategy has its downside of unintended consequences.  That includes the use of renewable generation technologies.

There is a growing push from US utilities to flatten out block or multi-tiered electricity rates to buffer themselves from losses from net metering.

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