PENTICTON - South Okanagan residents who are unhappy with the residential conservation rate on their electrical bills now have a limited opportunity to be heard.
The B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines recently asked the B.C. Utilities Commission to report to the government on the impact of Fortis B.C.’s residential conservation rate on customers in regions without access to natural gas, resulting in a request for comments from hydro customers affected by the rates.
Naramata resident Nick Marty is advocating a rethinking of the rate, saying anyone who uses electricity for heating their homes and water are being heavily penalized under the two-tiered pricing system.
Marty, a former federal employee who worked with energy policy, says the utilities commission "got it wrong" when they put the rate together.
“They made the assumption those who use more energy were wasting it, when in fact, they were using it for water and space heating because no other alternative was available,” he says.
Marty collected a 680 name petition protesting the two tiered rate in January 2015, submitting copies to the utilities commission and the Minister of Energy.
The petition resulted in a conference call with the Minister of Energy, after which the minister sent a letter to the commission with five questions about the conservation rate.
On July 7 this year, the commission sent out a notice of consultations to various communities without access to natural gas.
Marty says no communities or governments in the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen were included until he complained about the process.
“I found out about it by accident and I’m an intervenor in the process,” he says.
Since then, the commission has made the request more public, Marty says, noting the request has now also been posted on the regional district website.
Marty says if the utilities commission was really interested in getting comments, they would have put notices in people’s bills outlining the opportunity to comment. He says he wouldn’t be surprised if the commission’s report back to the minister wasn’t ready until after this year’s provincial election, based on the speed of the process so far.
The British Columbia Utilities Commission directed Fortis B.C. to implement the conservation rate between 2008 and 2012 with the goal of promoting energy conservation.
According to Fortis B.C, the residential conservation rate is a two-block rate structure that encourages you to save energy, adding the rate provides financial incentives if you use less electricity. The first 1,600 kWh are charged at a lower rate than the previous flat rate, but electricity use above that threshold is billed at a higher rate.
Fortis B.C. and B.C. Hydro customers are encouraged to comment to the commission by Monday, Aug. 15 regarding the impacts customers have experienced or identified from the conservation rates, in addition to having customers comment on ways to mitigate any impacts.
Comments should be made using the commissions’ letter of comment form found online on the commission webpage. All comments must be in writing and received on or before Monday, Aug. 15.
Comments can also be made by email at Commission.Secretary@bcuc.com or by mail to:
Ms. Laurel Ross
Acting Commission Secretary, BC Utilities Commission
6th Floor, 900 Howe St.,
Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 2 N3
For more information, contact the commission at 1-800-663-1385.
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