The B.C. government has set up a panel to review BC Hydro's plan to raise electricity rates 10 per cent in each of the next three years.

BC Hydro says it needs to raise $6 billion to upgrade dams and other facilities to meet the growing demand for electricity. The plan would cost homeowners $180 dollars more a year on average.

But Energy Minister Rich Coleman says that's too much and his review panel will examine BC Hydro's expenses, the reliability of its forecasting systems, and look for opportunities to save money.

Coleman appointed three senior bureaucrats, to review BC Hydro's proposal and develop options to reduce the rate increase. The three panel members are:

  • Deputy minister to the premier, John Dyble.
  • Deputy minister of finance, Peter Milburn.
  • Associate deputy minister of the environmental assessment office, Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland.

"Our goal is to find the right balance between investing in our hydro system, while keeping rates as low as possible for BC families - and this review will help us do just that," said Coleman in a statement released on Thursday morning.

The panel will report back to the government by the end of June, he said, and the final report will be made public.

"I'm sure it will lead to some frank discussions about the challenges, solutions and opportunities ahead," he said.

B.C. residents pay some of the lowest rates in North America for electrical power because of the province's large infrastructure of hydro dams. But many of the facilities are 30 to 80 years old and in need of upgrades, according to BC Hydro.

The increases will help finance upgrades for about a dozen dams and generating stations around the province, including the 80-year-old Ruskin Dam that will require an $800-million investment.

BC Hydro is a provincially owned Crown corporation that reports to the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources. It is regulated by the B.C. Utilities Commission, which controls the rates it charges and is mandated to provide reliable power, at low cost, for generations.