The B.C. government has been spending a lot of money lately advertising (for the election coming next spring).
In the meantime, they and their agency (B.C. Utilities Commission) have been dragging their heels since summer 2015 in responding to the outcry from the people suffering for using environmentally responsible, renewable electricity to heat their homes and from rural citizens who have to provide their own night lighting and operate water systems which sometimes require heat tracing. Why the complaints; because B.C. Hydro, followed by Fortis B.C., introduced a two-tier electrical rate system that charges about 50 per cent higher rate in tier 2 and these customers have to pay most of their electricity use at this higher rate.
B.C. Hydro used to encourage electrical heat by offering lower rates for heat use and then pulled the carpet out from under these customers and started penalizing them in 2008 (and Fortis in 2012).
What does this two-tier system do? It encourages people to use natural gas where it is available and penalizes those who heat with electricity. Several times it has been requested to have a moratorium on this two-tier rate system before this winter and the only response so far from this Liberal government has been to advertise.
This Liberal government has been advertising that they are doing their part for the environment by developing clean natural gas. It has been on TV so often as to constitute brainwashing, that natural gas is clean. Look at the Natural Resources Canada website and you will see that the residential sector of B.C. produced 2.3 Mt of CO2 in 2013 (latest year available). That’s 2.3 billion kilograms or over five billion pounds of greenhouse gas. The B.C. government calls this clean. They penalize electricity. B.C. Hydro cheats customers by encouraging them to go all electric and then penalizes them after they’ve committed to this.
In 2008, B.C. Hydro top executive Bob Elton pushed through the RIB rate (two-tier) with a marginal difference (6.28 cents to 6.98 cents per kWh) and a threshold of 1,600 kWh, which he said was “slightly lower than the average consumption of a typical home.”What was the typical home; certainly not electric.
Now in 2016 the rates are 8.29 cents and 12.43 cents per kWh (48 per cent difference) with a 1,350 kWh threshold; and Fortis rates are 9.845 cents and 15.198 cents per kWh (54 per cent difference) with a 1,600 kWh threshold. They claim the equivalent flat rates would be 9.93 cents and 11.433 cents per kWh respectively. Yes, that means that all-electric customers are subsidizing fossil-fuel burning customers. The majority of customers are receiving a small dollar subsidy at the burden to a minority of customers who pay a large dollar penalty for using an environmentally-friendly heating system.
Some of these customers are poor seniors on fixed incomes living in rural areas or small communities without access to natural gas who are subsidizing well-off customers who heat with natural gas.
Knowing this now, how many citizens can live with this? Environmentally responsible governments, like the City of Vancouver are pushing for residential heating conversion to electricity.
The questions to ask are: Why is the B.C. government encouraging residential use of natural gas? And, why are the equivalent flat-rate costs for electricity so high in this province?
For Manitoba Hydro the 2016 rate is 7.93 cents per kWh. Manitoba has a small population for a large area, bulk of generation is very remote in the north to load centres in the south, and a very expensive DC transmission system. For ATCO Electric the 2016 rate is 10.12 cents per kWh. ATCO electric services northern and remote smaller Alberta communities (similar to Fortis) and has mostly fossil-fueled generation.
The government of B.C. needs to have an enquiry into why the electricity rates are so high in this province, not encouraging the use of natural gas for residential heating.
To see the present enquiry into the two-tiered electrical rates go to www.bcuc.com/ApplicationView.aspx?ApplicationId=506.
For seniors and environmentally-minded people pay particular attention to the reports from BCOAPO and BCSEA-SCBC submitted on November 24, 2016. They advocate to keep the two-tiered system.
I am a retired senior electrical engineer with 37 years of experience in electrical utilities and industrial power applications for companies in Manitoba and Alberta. I’m retired in BC.