The B.C. government says BC Hydro is offering a three-month credit on residential power bills for people out of work or have had wages reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The credit will be three times their average monthly bill over the past year at their home and does not have to be paid back. People who are self-employed, quarantined or are a parent who cannot work due to childcare can apply for the credit.
Residential customers will be able to apply by the end of next week.
There is also a one per cent reduction for all BC Hydro customers, approved by the British Columbia Utilities Commission. That reduction, which comes into effect today, was requested by BC Hydro last August, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
B.C. Premier John Horgan and Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources made the announcement during a news conference on April 1.
“These initiatives are in place for today, not for forever and we will be able to guide British Columbians as we get closer to bending that curve,” said Horgan.
“We will do everything we can to support them.”
Ralston said the residential credit is an average of $477 per customer.
Larger businesses, such as pulp and paper mills or mines, will also be able to defer 50 per cent of their BC Hydro bills for three months. For small businesses, power bills will be forgiven for up to three months from April to June. Businesses can start applying for relief on April 14.
BC Hydro has also stopped all service disconnections for non-payment during COVID-19 and cancelled all non-emergency planned power outages affecting its customers.
Horgan said the relief from BC Hydro should be utilized by those who really need it to save resources for people who have lost their jobs.
Some customers may also be eligible for BC Hydro’s existing Customer Crisis Fund, which provides access to grants of up to $600 to pay their bills.
Ralston said the cost of the programs for residential customers and small business will cost between $80 and 90 million.
Horgan also said the BC Utilities Commission is talking with FortisBC — a private utility company that provides natural gas and electricity to B.C. residents — about what reductions they can offer customers.
Customers will have until June 30, 2020, to apply for relief from BC Hydro.
Watch the announcement below:
The program lets BC Hydro customers defer bill payments or arrange for a flexible payment plan with no penalty.