The British Columbia Utilities Commission has rejected the NDP government’s request to freeze hydro rates, citing “insufficient regulatory justification.”
This means hydro rates will increase by three per cent starting April 1, 2018.
Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall said she disappointed in the British Columbia Utilities Commission’s (BCUC) decision.
“We completely understand the affordability crisis so many families face, and will be taking action quickly to address the need to reduce electricity costs for those who need it most. Government will work with BC Hydro and customer groups on a lifeline rate program. The program could mean that people who have demonstrated need would have access to a lower rate for their electricity,” Mungall said.
Mungall also said starting in May, BC Hydro residential customers who are dealing with the loss of employment, unanticipated medical expenses, pending eviction, or other emergencies, will be eligible for a grant up to $600 that will go toward their outstanding hydro bill.
“To lower electricity costs for B.C. businesses and industries, we are phasing out the provincial sales tax (PST) on electricity. Following the 50 per cent reduction that started on Jan. 1, 2018, government will completely eliminate the PST on non-residential electricity on April 1, 2019. Residential use of electricity is already PST-exempt,” Mungall said, referencing a previous announcement.
“Eliminating the PST on electricity will translate into savings of more than $150 million annually for B.C. businesses.”
BC Hydro announced a winter-payment plan last month, which gives customers the option to spread bill payments over a six-month period. The government will also be reviewing BC Hydro to look for changes and cost savings. There has also been increased funding for low-income energy-conservation programs.
The BCUC said its panel reviewing the government’s rate-freeze proposal acknowledges that the increases over the past three years, including 4 per cent by April 1, 2016 and 3.5 per cent by April 1, 2017, are significant and are the maximum allowed under the provincial government’s direction to the regulatory agency.
” The panel ultimately found there to be insufficient regulatory justification to warrant lower increases because even these increases do not fully recover BC Hydro’s forecast revenue requirement, which includes items such as operating costs, new capital expenditures, and carrying costs on capital expenditures,” the BCUC said in a release.