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Hydro rates too high in the city, says city councillor

Penticton City Councillor Helena Konanz, left, shown here with Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, says city electrical rates are too high.
January 19, 2015 - 4:49 PM

PENTICTON - Changing to wholesale rates could save city residents money on their hydro bill according to a Penticton City Councillor.

Counc. Helena Konaz hopes the city will reconsider the way it charges customers for electricity and plans to introduce a motion during the regular meeting Jan. 19.

“Traditionally council has agreed to a higher rate than the wholesale rate the city pays for electricity from Fortis,” Konanz said. “That rate is compounded every year, adding more and more to the cost above Fortis’ rate."

During recent budget meetings, council had the choice of pegging the residential rate in the city at the wholesale price (the price the city pays Fortis for its power), by the retail rate, or by an averaged, or "blended" rate of the two. For the 2015 budget, they chose the blended rate. Councillor Konanz would like to see council maintain the rate at the wholesale level in 2016.

“When you compare numbers between Penticton and Summerland, small enterprise in Penticton pays on average $100 a month more for power than a similar business in Summerland. Anywhere else in B.C. the comparison numbers are worse - in those cases, it costs as much as $200 a month more on average to buy power in Penticton.”

Konanz said large commercial and industrial enterprises in the city are hit even harder - to the tune of $5,000 a month more, on average, for power in Penticton compared to the Summerland rate.  Comparing other localities in the province, the differential is $7,000 more, on average, for Penticton.

“We don’t need to do economic studies on electrical rates. It’s obvious this has an impact on the economy. The price difference is simply too large,” she said. “Our big drive in Penticton is economic development. This is an obvious way in which we can address that."

Konanz said the blended rate would bring an additional $250,000 to city coffers which makes it a tax.

“Let’s base it on the wholesale rate next year and leave it to council to raise later, if they feel they must,” she said.

General Manager at Penticton’s AC Motor Electric Frank Conci, agrees with Konanz’ concerns.

“Power rates aren’t competitive. They are 20 - 40 per cent higher than the surrounding area. It’s something we’re trying to correct,” he said. "The industrial area is an economic asset. We need to position our industrial and commercial sectors as competitive places to come and do business.”

Conci said the city should be looking at being competitive, not for a subsidy or a handout.

Last week, School District 67 passed a motion to write the City of Penticton requesting talks to discuss the high rate they pay for power. Konanz said she wished she had heard from them sooner.

“I really wish the school board had been at the special budget meeting on electrical rates we had earlier in January to support what I had to say then, instead of coming forward after council had already made their decision," Konanz said.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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