BC Hydro is moving ahead with its cost-cutting program, eliminating 300 positions this week and announcing 150 more will be gone in the next two years.
BC Hydro CEO Dave Cobb gave few specifics about the type of positions being eliminated. He said the reductions were identified starting in January as the Crown utility prepared for a review of its operations ordered by incoming Premier Christy Clark. About 250 positions were phased out before this week, for a total reduction of 700.
Cobb said most of the reductions are through attrition, but there will be "some layoffs" to reach the number needed to limit rate increases as directed by the government review.
Three deputy ministers reviewed BC Hydro operations and reported to Energy Minister Rich Coleman in August. Cobb and Coleman agreed to roll back the general rate increase to eight per cent this year and 3.9 per cent in each of the next two years. BC Hydro's previous application to regulators was for a 9.73 increase in each of the three years.
The Canadian Office and Professional Employees, one of BC Hydro's two unions, says it is losing 400 meter reader positions as a result of BC Hydro's installation of wireless smart meters that automatically report consumption and power outages.
The review endorsed BC Hydro's business case for upgrading to smart grid technology. It focused on BC Hydro's 650 staff engineers, and Coleman said the utility should be contracting out more engineering work. The review found overall staff grew by 41 per cent between 2006 and 2010.
Speaking on CKNW radio Thursday, Cobb said he is examining procedures for engineering projects, but he's not convinced of the need for reductions given the utility's current array of major construction projects. Hydro Quebec has 1,700 engineers on staff, he said.