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Whistler Blackcomb costs will go up with Hydro increases



Rising hydro rates could have an impact on Whistler Blackcomb's bottom line, a company official said last week.

Doug Forseth, vice-president of operations for Whistler Blackcomb, said that plans by BC Hydro to increase rates by 27 per cent over three years are going to increase the company's costs, bringing a possible increase in ticket prices that officials haven't yet determined.

"It's going to increases our costs, I mean that's all there is to it," Forseth said. "We're still trying to appreciate and understand how it's going to work. It's very complicated and you know, our energy manager has been working with our account representative from BC Hydro on this for a while now. They're still really trying to get a good grasp of exactly how it's going to be administered in a business of our size."

Business rates will be going up in lockstep with residential rate increases, which are projected to add $7 to a $71 monthly home bill. BC Hydro says it is difficult to quantify precisely how the increases will go up for businesses due to factors such as demand, supply and location, but the residential increases suggest that the Crown corporation will be seeking a 27 per cent increase over three years.

Speaking beyond Whistler Blackcomb, Forseth said rising hydro costs actually penalize businesses that are growing.

"If you had a store that was 5,000 square feet and it didn't get any bigger you could see why it's probably a reasonable formula to induce conservation and savings for hydro," he said. "But to be successful, it could add another 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 feet. It's going to be penalized for being successful."

If Whistler Blackcomb had added the Peak 2 Peak Gondola after these increases, Forseth said, it would certainly add value to the business as it has already done, but WB would also effectively be punished for doing so because it has to pay more for electricity.

Arthur DeJong, Whistler Blackcomb's mountain planning and environmental resource manager, said in a Tuesday interview that Whistler Blackcomb's commitment to conservation has meant that its consumption of electricity hasn't climbed since 2001.

"We've been under an energy management program with BC Hydro for some time," he said. "We're in about year three, and even prior to that, we were initiating conservation programs with our electrical consumption.

"We've added considerable infrastructure since then. Think of Peak 2 Peak, think of Symphony, we've doubled our snowmaking capacity.

"Had we not implemented a number of conservation initiatives, we would have been up 15 per cent from that 2001 overall consumption. So that saved us... which is saving us over $300,000."


BC Hydro is seeking the increases in order to pay for $6 billion in upgrades to renew and expand the province's electricity infrastructure. Projects slated for upgrades include adding a fifth unit at the Revelstoke Generating Station; a seismic upgrade at the Coquitlam Dam; and an increase in generating capacity at the Fort Nelson Generating Station.

Also factoring into the increases are the prices of electricity generated by Independent Power Producers (IPP) such as run-of-river hydro projects that for years have popped up around the Sea to Sky region. BC Hydro admitted previously that the projects are accounting for about one-fifth of the increases.

The price of electricity from such projects isn't generally known because successful candidates under Clean Power Calls are committed to non-disclosure agreements for two to three years after the calls themselves. The most recent call happened in 2009 and resulted in 18 successful projects including the Upper Lillooet cluster planned north of Pemberton.



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