Northern BC residents will be dishing out more money for their hydro after the province’s Utilities Commission went through with a 3% rate increase on Thursday.
The announcement disappoints the NDP government has they wanted to put a freeze on hydro rates this year.
While it wasn’t the outcome they were hoping for, work is already being done to shore up the crown corporation.
“I appreciate their rationale, they were very clear in a nutshell that this is a mess that is at BC Hydro which needs to be cleaned up and we’ve already started that process,” says Michelle Mungall, Energy and Mines Minister.
“It’s not fair to ratepayers, it’s not fair to British Columbians and that’s why we’re going to clean up that mess as we are dedicated to doing that and we’ve already made steps to start on the process, which includes the opportunity for a review.”
Last December, about 90,000 BC Hydro customers paid their bill late due to higher electricity bills in the winter.
The move will be put a bigger strain on northern BC families who are already struggling to pay their hydro bills after the winter we’ve had.
Mungall adds the NDP does have an alternative plan in place to help fix the struggling utility.
“We’re going to move forward with implementing a lifeline rate, we’re already going to get started this spring with a crisis grant of about $600 and we’re also going to be working on programs that support low-income households in conservation so they can reduce the overall cost of their bills.”
She says they’ll be looking at the best way to come up with the lifeline rate and will try and make some progress on it by the spring.
Making life more affordable for all residents province-wide has been a goal of the NDPs since their aggressive election campaign against the BC Liberals last spring.
With a setback like this, Mungall is concerned about the everyday working public who are already struggling with the rising costs of essential services.
“When you go door-to-door during an election, when you talk to constituents any day on the street when you’re traveling around British Columbia and people say over and over again that they’re really struggling to make ends meet, some of the number one conversation amongst my peer groups is how much they have to pay in mortgage or rent and how much they have to pay in hydro bills, heating bills – those are the conversations that we have that food keeps going up and if somebody has a child let me tell you about child care costs,” stated Mungall.
“People are struggling in British Columbia, so when we see a decision like this that comes from the BC Utilities Commission that allows for the BC Liberals rate increase to grow up, absolutely I’m disappointed because I think about those people every day.”
The rate hike takes effect on April 1st.
BC Hydro has released a statement on the rate hike.
BC Hydro respects the decision from the BC Utilities Commission and their role as our independent energy regulator.
We remain committed to providing options and support for our customers to help them manage their bills. Earlier this month, we announced we are reactivating our Winter Payment Plan to help customers spread payments for their winter bills over a period of up to 6 months, as well as investing over $10 million in our low-income conservation programs over the next three years.
In May, we’re launching a crisis fund that will allow customers that find themselves in a financial emergency to access grants of up to $600 to put towards outstanding BC Hydro bills. BC Hydro will work with government and begin consulting with customer groups in the coming weeks on a lifeline rate. This rate would be a special, reduced electricity rate for income-qualifying customers and will require approval from the BC Utilities Commission to implement.
Government is expected to begin a comprehensive review of BC Hydro this spring. The review is intended to identify changes and potential savings to keep rates low while ensuring BC Hydro continues to provide clean, safe and reliable electricity.