BC Hydro CEO steps down amid controversy

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Bob Elton is stepping down after six years as president and CEO of Crown-owned BC Hydro, sparking rumours he may have been pushed out by the Campbell government.

Elton has been at the helm of the provincial power corporation during a time of sweeping changes in government energy policy.

But just recently, board chair Dan Doyle issued a brief statement saying Elton would be "transitioning" to a new role as special adviser to Hydro's board and as executive chair of Powertech Labs Inc., a technology-consulting subsidiary of Hydro.

A BC Hydro spokesman said no one — including Elton — would be available to discuss the reason for the shift, but it's no secret that BC Hydro has been caught in the middle of a controversy over the government's policy with the province's independent utilities commission.

B.C. NDP energy critic John Horgan is drawing his own links to the recent controversy.

"The CEO of the company clearly didn't see the world the same way that the premier's office did, the same way that the minister's office did. Consequently they found another place for him to spend his time for the next year or so until he hits retirement age."

The B.C. Liberal government has said that by 2020 half of B.C.'s new energy must be met through conservation, and much of the rest should come from private, independent power producers.

Those independent power producers became a hot issue during the May provincial election when environmentalists raised concerns about the environmental impact of plans to build run-of-the-river power plants on many B.C. rivers.

Then in July, the B.C. Utilities Commission, which regulates the Crown corporation, rejected BC Hydro's long-term plan based on the government's policy.

The controversial decision by the independent commission pulled the plug on BC Hydro's plan to buy electricity from dozens of run-of-river and wind-power projects, saying the long-term acquisition scheme is not practical or in the public interest.

The commission directed BC Hydro to make up the needed power instead by using the Burrard Thermal power plant near Vancouver.

And recently, the province issued a directive telling the regulator and BC Hydro to end reliance on the gas-fired Burrard Thermal plant except in emergencies, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


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