In Part One we met Nick Marty, a retired federal energy expert who helped lead the challenge against two tier hydro, explaining how it doesn’t actually reduce energy use, but penalizes people without access to natural gas.
In Part Two we examined the consequences of two tier hydro, in Valemount, a community with the worst air quality in the province, unsurprisingly many people are switching to burning wood because of the price.
In Part Three, we talk to politicians about what happens next.
by Andru McCracken
Suntanu Dalal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy, Mines & Petroleum Resources says the government has pledged to ‘make life more affordable for everyone,’ and so they are working with BC Hydro to address concerns about two-tier rates.
Dalal said government will be reaching out to customers in the coming weeks, outlining a process for people to make their voices heard.
“Government will also undertake a comprehensive review of BC Hydro to make it work for people. The review will identify changes and cost savings to keep rates low while ensuring BC Hydro has the resources it needs to continue to provide clean, safe and reliable electricity,” wrote Dalal.
One of the options being considered is a time-of-use rate.
“Under these rates, customers with the ability to shift their electricity consumption from high-demand to low-demand periods could lower their bills,” said Dalal.
He said the Province would work with BC Hydro and customer groups on a ‘lifeline rate’ program.
“The program could mean that people who have demonstrated need would have access to a lower rate for their electricity.”
Starting in May, BC Hydro residential customers who find themselves in an emergency – such as loss of employment, unanticipated medical expenses or pending eviction for example – will be eligible for a grant toward their outstanding BC Hydro bill. The grant is up to $600 and does not need to be repaid.
BC Hydro has also announced a winter payment plan, giving customers the option to spread bill payments over a six-month period, and increased funding for low-income energy conservation programs.
MLA Shirley Bond was in office when the change to two-tier hydro took place in 2008, and while she said she often gets calls about individual hydro bills, she said there hasn’t been an overwhelming number of calls regarding the two tier system specifically.
“The concern I have as an MLA that represents communities that have a colder climate and can’t necessarily access natural gas is there are unintended consequences for those consumers,” wrote Bond.
“I think there are legitimate concerns about the structure and whether or not it is in fact a disincentive.”
BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is not a fan of two-tier hydro, despite its claims of lowering energy use.
“I support the elimination of two-tier hydro rates because they incentivize activities like wood burning and natural gas usage, which have negative consequences for air quality and for our greenhouse gas emissions. Two-tier hydro also unfairly penalizes people in rural B.C.”
Weaver also makes the connection between the province’s decision to proceed with Site C and the implications that will have for a proposed geothermal development in Valemount.
“Valemount has an incredible opportunity to produce its own power locally through the proposed Borealis geothermal project,” he said. “Smaller scale, distributed power is far more efficient. You lose far less power in transmission. Unfortunately, the power that will be produced by Site C will make it harder for projects like Borealis GeoPower to go ahead.”
Both Weaver and Bond look forward to BC Hydro’s review of rates.
“For my constituents I think the review that the current government has committed to will answer some important questions and potentially lead to a re-design of the system,” said Bond.
Weaver looks forward to the results of the review of BC Hydro.
“I will keep the pressure on them to resolve the issue of two-tier hydro billing,” said Weaver.