Penticton mayor John Vassilaki has asked Premier John Horgan for an electrical subsidy for the city.
Penticton was one of the few communities left out by the BC Hydro COVID-19 relief package announced by Premier Horgan on April 1, as the city is not serviced by BC Hydro.
Vassilaki has sent a written appeal to Premier Horgan to request a fair electrical subsidy that would enable all electrical utilities, including Penticton’s, to offer its citizens and business owners relief on its power bills.
“The April 1, 2020 announcement is triggering pressure from our customers to match the BC Hydro rate relief offering; however, we do not have the same level of financial resources that BC Hydro has,” reads Vassilaki’s letter to Premier Horgan.
The BC Hydro COVID-19 relief package is only available to BC Hydro’s electrical customers, which totals approximately 95 per cent of the province’s population.
The remaining five per cent are serviced by FortisBC and five municipal utilities.
The City of Penticton is one of five municipalities that owns and operates their own electric distribution utility in British Columbia. The District of Summerland, Nelson, Grand Forks and New Westminster are the other four.
As such, residents and businesses within this five per cent are not eligible for the announced bill credits and waived charges.
“We are calling for equal treatment that’s being offered to the rest of the province so that we too can offer relief on power bills to our citizens and businesses,” said Penticton, Mayor John Vassilaki. “To support our residents, council has sent this letter to the premier to appeal for consistency and ensure fairness to all British Columbians.”
The city is also concerned the costs of the existing BC Hydro relief program will be partly passed down to Penticton residents in the future. According to the city, this could be through a taxpayer subsidy to BC Hydro or an increase in the cost of power the city purchases from FortisBC, some of which are sourced from BC Hydro.
The city is proposing a one-time subsidy to all electrical utilities, including the municipal electrical utilities throughout B.C.
The city says this approach would ensure relief is granted to all small business and residential customers across the province and would not further burden ratepayers through long-term increases to their bill.
FortisBC and the City of Penticton have both previously announced that utility disconnections and late-fees will be put on hold to assist customers who may be experiencing financial challenges due to COVID-19.
To read Vassilaki’s letter to Premier Horgan in its entirety click here.