BC Hydro will hold off on a planned rate increase while the NDP government undertakes a comprehensive review of the electric utility.
The ministry of energy, mines and petroleum announced both the rate freeze and the review Wednesday, saying it was part of the government’s commitment to addressing the province’s affordability crisis.
“It’s very exciting that we’re going to be able to make life more affordable for British Columbians step-by-step, and this is another one” of those steps, energy minister Michelle Mungall told reporters in Victoria.
The review will be a one-year process, which will keep hydro rates frozen during that time, fulfilling promises the NDP made during the election campaign to halt further rate increases.
The government’s September budget update included plans to phase out the provincial sales tax on electricity.
In 2016, BC Hydro applied to the BC Utilities Commission for three years of increases, including a three per cent increase planned for next year that would have taken effect in April if approved.
Mungall said BC Hydro has now amended that request from three per cent to zero.
The ministry says BC Hydro’s rates have gone up by more than 24 per cent in the last four years, and by more than 70 per cent since 2001.
WATCH: BC Hydro applies for rate increase
Mungall said the province’s review of BC Hydro will be a collaborative effort with the utility that will work on finding ways to not only lower existing rates for consumers, but also find solutions to replacing that lost revenue, which is estimated to be $150-million.
Details about the review will be developed after the government makes a final decision on the Site C dam, which is expected by the end of the year.
Site C was also the subject of a comprehensive review, which found the controversial project was unlikely to be completed on time nor on budget.
The ministry said any adjustments identified by the report would be reflected in rates starting in April 2019.
A spokesperson for BC Hydro said the utility is open to working with the NDP on finding solutions that “will help keep electricity rates low and predictable for our customers over the long-term.”
But Liberal critic Tracy Redies said the freeze just means an increase at a later date — a massive one if the provincial government decides to cancel Site C.
“There’s going to be a real hole here. All this really is is punting off the decision that should be made today in the best interest of ratepayers, and BC Hydro, and the province in the future.”
~With files from Liza Yuzda