Advocacy groups are asking for bill affordability program for low income ratepayers

Advocacy groups are asking for bill affordability program for low income ratepayers

Are hydro rates getting too high?

Advocacy groups are asking for bill affordability program for low income ratepayers.

If you’ve ever been unable to pay your B.C. Hydro bill, you are not alone.

According to the B.C. public interest advocacy centre (BCPIAC) – representing seven advocacy groups in the province -, B.C. Hydro’s rate increases have grossly outpaced increases in income for low-income British Columbians.

“B.C. Hydro residential electricity rates have increased by 51 per cent in the last 10 years,” says a statement by BCPIAC. “People living in poverty have a hard time paying for essential services such as electricity when their incomes are stagnant.”

The B.C. utilities commission (BCUC) is holding a public hearing in Vancouver this month to review B.C. Hydro’s rate design application. In this process, the BCUC will hear evidence and submissions from intervener groups such as BCPIAC to determine rate structures and terms and conditions.

The BCPIAC is suggesting the adoption of low income customer rules such as waiver of security deposits, more flexible payment arrangements, elimination of late payment fees and suspension of disconnections during cold weather periods.

The BCPIAC is also asking for the creation of a crisis assistance fund for customers who are unable to pay for their electricity bills.

According to BCPIAC, B.C. Hydro offers no rates or terms and conditions that specifically apply to low-income customers.

“The only programs available to these customers are energy saving kits and in more limited cases, energy efficiency audits and certain home upgrades; while these programs are important, they are not offsetting B.C. Hydro’s rate increases.”

Sarah Khan, one of the lawyers at BCPIAC who is bringing this issue to the BCUC, said about 10 per cent of B.C. Hydro residential customers live below Statistics Canada’s low income cut-off, which translates to about 170,000 customers.

“Our proposals will help to mitigate the impact of B.C. Hydro’s never-ending rate increases,” she said.

Earlier this year, B.C. Hydro rates increased by four per cent. This was the third year of a 10-year plan for rate increases. Rates are on track to be increased by another 6.5 per cent in the next two years, and in the final five years of the plan, rates are expected to increase by 2.6 per cent per year.

According to B.C. Hydro, many of their facilities were built in the 1960s, 70s and 80s; therefore they must make investments in aging infrastructure and new projects to meet growing demand for power.

“Population increase and economic growth are two of the key reasons we need to add both capacity and energy to the system,” explained Kevin Aquino,  a spokesperson with B.C. Hydro. “We are forecasting that B.C.’s electricity needs will grow by almost 40 per cent over the next 20 years.”

B.C. Hydro is investing, on average, $2 billion a year, to upgrade aging assets and build new infrastructure, including the Site C project and installing a new unit at the Revelstoke generating station. Without these two projects, B.C. Hydro says the province would face a capacity deficit of almost 10 per cent within the next 10 years.

In addition, many of B.C. Hydro’s industrial customers are facing declining prices for the commodities they produce, which means B.C. Hydro has had a loss in revenue of $3.5 billion since 2013. B.C. Hydro says they’ve taken several actions to reduce costs, and that even with the current rate increases, their rates remain among the lowest in North America.

The BCPIAC is representing seven advocacy groups, including active support against poverty, B.C. old age pensioners’ organization, B.C. poverty reduction coalition, council of senior citizens’ organizations of B.C., disability alliance B.C., together against poverty society and tenant resource and advisory centre.

 

Just Posted

Lakes District Hospital and Health Centre opened in February 2015. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Lack of maternity program, still a problem in Burns Lake

Community members continue to shuttle to far away locations

The adult Cooper’s Hawk was spotted in Burns Lake last month. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
What to do when you see a bird band or a banded bird?

Here are some answers this Cooper’s Hawk in Burns Lake lead us to

The chamber recently got a picnic bench made and will be adding a few more to the collection for visitors and Burns Lakers to enjoy. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Burns Lake’s community market gets the official farmer’s market status

The Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce’s community market is now… Continue reading

DLES' Le Trois Petits Cochons presentation. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
French play at Decker Lake Elementary School

On May 25, Grade 4-5 students of the Decker Lake Elementary School… Continue reading

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Most Read