March 1, 2018 6:31 pm
Updated: March 1, 2018 11:10 pm

BC Hydro rates are going up despite NDP promise to freeze them

In an unusual move, the BC Utilities Commission has rejected BC Hydro's request to freeze rates. Keith Baldrey has the details.

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Get ready for your BC Hydro rates to go up once again. The British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) has approved a 3 per cent rate increase effective April 1, 2018.

This comes on the heels of approved rate hikes of 4 per cent from 2016 and 3.5 per cent in 2017.

The BC NDP promised in the 2017 election campaign to freeze hydro rate increases for a year.

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“The BCUC did not approve BC Hydro’s amended application for a 0% increase, effective April 1, 2018.,” reads a press release from the regulator. “The BCUC Panel reviewing the matter acknowledged that these increases are significant, and are the maximum allowable under the Provincial Government’s Direction.”

The increase means about a $4.00 increase per month for Hydro customers.

Based on calculations by BC Hydro, Vancouver is still one of the most affordable major cities in Canada, with only Montreal and Edmonton having lower rates. Toronto, New York and Seattle have substantially higher monthly rates.

The BCUC panel found there was ‘insufficient regulatory justification’ to warrant freezing the rates because BC Hydro would no be able to fully recover forecast revenue requirements.

Energy Minister Michelle Mungall spoke after the announcement.

“I appreciate their rationale. They’re very clear in a nutshell that this is a mess. There is a mess at BC Hydro, it needs to be cleaned up, and I hear that,” she said.

Mungall said people struggling with bills will be able to access lifeline rates and crisis grants in the future, but they need to look at legislation before implementing those lifeline rates.

In a statement, B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said, “I am glad that the government is respecting BCUC’s independence.”

“If governments had always done this, British Columbians would not be facing the travesty of the Site C boondoggle,” the statement went on to say. “BCUC makes its decisions based on evidence and in what is the best interests of ratepayers. Respect for proper process is essential for public trust in government and for the integrity of our democracy.”

A statement from BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson slammed the provincial NDP government, saying, “The hydro rate freeze now joins the renters’ rebate, the 114,000 new units of affordable housing, $10-a-day child care and massive tax hikes on the NDP’s growing pile of broken promises.”

In January, Premier John Horgan set the table for the BCUC not approving the rate freeze.

“I am now more convinced than ever that the better course of action on affordability is not blanket reduction or freezes, but targeted to those that can best benefit from relief in this area,” said Horgan in January.

Horgan has asked the BC Hydro board to look at ways of offering a break on rates to those who are struggling to pay.

“Basically means testing those that are seeing significant increases in their hydro bills, if they can’t find power smart ways to reduce those costs then perhaps relief from the utility or the province is a way to do that,” said Horgan in January.

  • With files from reporter Liza Yuzda

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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