Opponents quickly dismiss FortisBC rate report

Keremeos mayor says he's not surprised company has confirmed that nearly a third of its customers are paying more under conservation rate

  • Nov. 7, 2013 8:00 a.m.
Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer has been leading political opposition against FortisBC's new conservation rate

Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer has been leading political opposition against FortisBC's new conservation rate

FortisBC’s new two-tier electricity rate is working as expected but drawing an undue share of criticism, the company said in a new report that’s already been written off by one opponent.

“The group that is negatively affected is far smaller than is reflected by the publicity garnered by the rate,” reads a portion of the report, which examines impacts of the so-called conservation rate and was filed last week with the B.C. Utilities Commission.

After receiving 150 customer complaints, the BCUC ordered FortisBC to study the effects of the new rate structure, which was implemented in July 2012 to decrease energy use.

Under the new system, which was mandated by the provincial regulator under direction from the B.C. government, the cost of electricity in a two-month billing period was reduced for all consumption under 1,600 kilowatt-hours, but increased for power used above that threshold.

“The results show that customers with electric heat and without access to natural gas have higher than average annual consumption which leads to a higher than average impact due to the implementation,” the report concluded.

Nick Marty, who lives with his wife near Osoyoos and is one of many rural FortisBC customers for whom natural gas is not available, instead relies on electricity to run a heat pump.

His power bill for the two months ended mid-April 2012 was $626.79 under the old flat rate. It rose to $757.45 for the same period in 2013 with the new two-tier rate, despite the couple’s usage actually declining by 89 kWh to 5,848.

“The impact is seasonal, right? In the middle of winter, I get clobbered,” said Marty, who retired six years ago from the energy policy branch of Natural Resources Canada.

“Basically what it is, is a wealth redistribution rate. It’s taking money from rural customers and in effect, recycling it back to city dwellers.”

FortisBC’s study assessed the bills of 97,000 residential customers and found that 70 per cent of them are paying less under the conservation rate.

It also determined that 8.2 per cent of customers saw an increase of between 10 and 20 per cent on their bills, and 0.4 per cent of ratepayers endured a spike of more than 20 per cent.

“The report didn’t bring anything new that we didn’t already know, that people who rely on electric heat only and the ones who don’t have the means to hook up to gas are the worst off,” said Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer, who’s been leading political opposition to the conservation rate.

He noted, however, that people who are hardest hit, like pensioners, are least able to afford the increase.

Prior to the report’s publication, politicians had called for an adjustment of the rate’s 1,600 kWh threshold, but FortisBC has indicated that’s easier said that done.

The problem lies in the BCUC’s requirement that the new rate be revenue neutral, that customer impacts fall within an approved range, and that it result in power conservation.

“To move the threshold up would mean we’d have to move one of the rates and that would then mean some customers are going to pay more,” said FortisBC spokesman Neal Pobran.

“If there are changes, there’s going to have to be some sort of trade-off between conservation encouragement and customers paying for this change.”

It’s unclear what the BCUC will do with the study.

“We have received the report and will begin its review in the near term,” Kristine Bienert, the BCUC’s acting director of customer relations, said in a statement.

“Until it has been reviewed, I am unable to comment on the commission’s next steps nor the timeline.”

All told, the conservation rate has saved between 23 million and 52 million kWh of electricity in its first year,  the report estimated.

That’s enough to power up to 1,766 average Canadian homes for a year, according to Statistics Canada data.

 

 

Just Posted

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Geordie Fife exits the dunk tank during 2017’s Discovery House Father’s Day festivities at Skaha Lake Park. The fundraiser helps raise awareness of the work done at the house and break down the stigma associated with addiction. (Western News File)
Discovery House Father’s Day fundraiser goes digital

The addiction recovery program will be rolling out videos ahead of the fundraiser

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
Five-storey building proposed for Penticton’s Front Street

It will be the second time the proposal will head to council

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from St. Eugene’s residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Most Read