British Columbians faced a tough winter trying to pay for higher than expected electricity bills and now rates are set to increase 3% as the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) has decided against BC Hydro’s one-year rate freeze.
"I am disappointed the BCUC turned down BC Hydro's request for a one-year rate freeze, and instead, approved the previous government's rate increase,” Michelle Mungall, Minister of Energy, said in a press release. "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.”
The BCUC approved the 3% rate hike effective April 1, 2018 citing ‘insufficient regulatory justification’ to warrant the freeze.
The news comes after the BC NDP promised in the 2017 election campaign to freeze rate increases for one year. Electricity rates increased 4% in 2016 and another 3.5% in 2017.
According to BC Hydro, about 90,000 residential customers paid their bills late in December 2017 and since 2010, an average of between 10% to 15% of customers have paid their electricity bill late each month.
"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,” said Mungall.
On February 9, 2018, BC Hydro introduced enhanced measures to help manage electricity costs like a Winter Payment Plan.
The plan allows customers to spread bill payments over a six-month period. The plan was piloted last year and had over 4,000 customers sign up.
BC Hydro is also set to spend $10 million on low-income conservation programs to help customers in need.