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Province pushing for regulator to approve decrease of BC Hydro rates

WATCH: The province has allowed BC Hydro to apply to the BC Utilities Commission for a rate reduction next year. But as legislative bureau chief Keith Baldrey reports, the relief will be temporary.

The B.C. government has submitted a request to the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) to decrease hydro rates.

The provincial government has struggled with the rates at BC Hydro since taking power more than two years ago.

The BC NDP promised in the 2017 election campaign to freeze hydro rate increases for a year. But the BCUC wouldn’t allow the freeze, and instead approved a three per cent rate increase effective April 1, 2018.

READ MORE: B.C. Hydro rates set to go up 8.1 per cent over the next five years

But because of audited fiscal 2019 financial results showing higher-than-anticipated income from its trading subsidiary Powerex, lower-than-anticipated forecast debt financing costs, and lower-than-anticipated purchases from independent power producers, the province says it is in position to request a rate decrease.

“For the past two years, our government has been focused on making sure BC Hydro works for people again,” Energy Minister Michelle Mungall said Friday.

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“I am thrilled that BC Hydro is now able to apply for a rate reduction for the first time in decades. If approved by our independent regulator, lower rates would make life better and more affordable for British Columbians.”

WATCH: (March 1, 2018) Utilities commission rejects BC Hydro request for no rate increase

Utilities commission rejects BC Hydro request for no rate increase
Utilities commission rejects BC Hydro request for no rate increase

In February, the B.C. government announced plans to hand over more power to BCUC to regulate BC Hydro. The province commissioned a full review of the Crown corporation.

BC Hydro’s application to the regulator includes a one per cent rate reduction starting April 2020. The request also includes an increase of 2.7 per cent in 2021, a decrease of 0.3 per cent in 2022, and an increase of three per cent starting April 2023.

Overall, this will mean that British Columbians will still pay more over the four-year period if approved.

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

“As a result of our updated financial forecast, we’re in the unique position to apply for a rate decrease for our customers that would start on April 1, 2020, if approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission,” BC Hydro president Chris O’Riley said.

“We’re committed to continue to work with government and the B.C. Utilities Commission to keep rates affordable while ensuring we continue to provide safe, reliable power to the province.”

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