Fortis B.C. applying to end two-tiered electrical rate negatively impacting rural South Okanagan customers | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Fortis B.C. applying to end two-tiered electrical rate negatively impacting rural South Okanagan customers

Regional district board directors listen to discussions at a meeting Thursday, Jan. 4, 2017.
January 04, 2018 - 3:49 PM

PENTICTON - Fortis B.C. plans to return to a flat rate for residential customers, thanks in part, to heat from Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District directors.

At a regional district board meeting today, Jan. 4, Fortis B.C. Regulatory Affairs manager Corey Sinclair said the utility plans to recommend a return to a flat rate for its residential customers when it goes before the B.C. Utilities Commission for a rate review later this month.

The regional district has been advocating for the elimination of the two-tiered residential electric rate introduced in 2012 because of its negative impact on rural and low income residents who don’t have access to other power sources to heat their homes.

Sinclair said the utility had come to the conclusion the two-tiered rate was “burdensome” to high consuming customers, and that Fortis could not justify the rate based on its costs to supply the power. He also noted any significant conservation initiatives that might have been implemented by customers as a result of the rate would have likely been exhausted in the past five years.

But Sinclair said the return to a flat rate would also impact most of its customers with a 14 to 16 per cent rate hike, so Fortis wanted to spread the increase over five years to lessen the burden on its customers.

While they appreciate the move by Fortis away from the two-tiered rate, most of the directors oppose the lengthy transition period, with directors Elef Christensen from Area G and Tom Siddon from Area D asking why the utility couldn’t implement the change immediately.

Christensen asked why Fortis wanted five years to eliminate the rate when it was able to implement it in one year, sentiments echoed by Siddon who said it was time to get back to a more equitable system and to get rid of the conservation rate quickly.

West Bench director Michael Brydon noted roughly 70 per cent of Fortis customers would see a relatively small annual increase to their bills, while the rural users hardest hit by the dual rate would see “huge decreases.”

Fortis made their application the utilities commission on Dec. 22, 2017. Sinclair said the process could take up to a year to complete.

The board also agreed to support Nick Marty and the Anarchist Mountain Community Society application for intervenor status rather than apply for status on their own.

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