Nelson city council has approved a 2.02 per cent general rate increase on hydro but it’s one of the lowest rate increases in the province. The rate hike is set to take effect April 1.
“Nelson Hydro is Nelson’s golden goose,” said Mayor Deb Kozak, noting that the low rate increase was made possible by the utility.
“The ability to produce our own power makes us sustainable. We own our own power utility and we can provide affordable energy for people living in the Nelson area.”
After the 2015 increases, Nelson Hydro will continue to have the lowest residential rates of FortisBC and other municipal hydro utilities.
Nelson had the lowest electrical rate increase in the province, compared to 3.1 to 6.5 per cent elsewhere.
At the most recent council meeting council passed the first three readings, paving the way for the changes to be finalized by March. Staff recommended the change after consultations with Nelson Hydro and after surveying rates in the area.
Councillor Janice Morrison noted that Fortis’ recent rate increase was 3.5 per cent.
Council had three decisions to mull — approving the increase, or voting for higher or lower rates. Morrison said the middle ground was the most reasonable choice.
“We don’t want to make the rates any higher because we don’t want to increase the burden on young families and seniors, but at the same time we don’t want to have hydro in a deficit position.”
Morrison said investing in improving transmission lines and completing thorough maintenance of their utilities remains a priority for council.
Morrison said the rate increases will allow Nelson to continue tackling long-term infrastructure projects, such as the plan to twin the power supply to Harrop and Procter to mitigate power outages.
“If we didn’t have this money going in, we couldn’t continue with these exciting projects we’ve got on the books,” said Morrison.
Morrison also pointed out that since the changes won’t start until April, the increase is only approximately 1.4 per cent for the year of 2015.
Kozak noted that there are other energy initiatives in the area, including the so-called solar garden.
“It costs some money and it’s a new technology, but it’s a way for us to see how these technologies are going to carry us forward as we continue to deal with the effects of climate change.”