BC Hydro scraps E-Plus program, forces more wood burning

By Andru McCracken


Rene Nunweiler would rather not burn wood, but BC Hydro’s rate structure is leaving her no other option despite the fact she believes that it is not good for Valemount’s air.

Nunweiler used to heat exclusively with electricity. She received a special rate from BC Hydro under a program called E-Plus.

The E-Plus program was started in 1987 and took new customers until 1990.  A second separate meter kept track of how much electricity was used on home heating and the household was required to have a backup in case of a power outage.

According to the BC Hydro the ‘special low Electric Plus rate was [….] at least one third lower than the firm electric rate.’

“For several years we benefited from heating the house electrically, except during occasional power outages when we switched to the wood stove,” she said.

Nunweiler said that BC Hydro ended the program last year. Instead of being offered an incentive to heat with electricity, she and others like her are forced to pay more.

Instead of E-Plus there is now a Residential Conservation Rate.

According to BC Hydro’s website: “Customers pay one rate for the first 1,350 kWh they use over an average two-month billing period. Above that amount, customers pay a higher rate per kWh for the balance of the electricity used during the billing period.”

This higher rate is called ‘Step 2.’

It has made heating with electricity too expensive for Nunweiler.

As a result, she’s burning wood.

“February was extremely cold and I burned wood night and day for the entire month,” she said.

“BC Hydro’s rate

structure is a problem. It is impossible to heat a home without going into their ‘Step 2’

usage at a higher rate. Step 2 is meant for energy conservation, but is punitive in my case.”

Nunweiler uses a recently installed high efficiency wood burner.

“It still contributes to the poor air quality,” she said. “I don’t believe the answer is a wood stove exchange program, but working with BC Hydro to reduce heating rates. They could eliminate the 2 step rates for Valemount where we have no affordable alternative except wood heat.”

Nunweiler said even good wood stoves give off harmful particulate.

“Once my stove is going you don’t see the smoke, it’s clear and has a catalytic converter. But you are still putting out something, you can’t get around that.”

Nunweiler said it makes sense to heat with non-polluting power… like hydroelectricity.

1,350 kWh they use over an average two-month billing period. Above that amount, customers pay a higher rate per kWh for the balance of the electricity used during the billing period.”

This higher rate is called ‘Step 2.’

It has made heating with electricity too expensive for Nunweiler.

As a result, she’s burning wood.

“February was extremely cold and I burned wood night and day for the entire month,” she said.

“BC Hydro’s rate structure is a problem. It is impossible to heat a home without going into their ‘Step 2’

usage at a higher rate. Step 2 is meant for energy conservation, but is punitive in my case.”

Nunweiler uses a recently installed high efficiency wood burner.

“It still contributes to the poor air quality,” she said. “I don’t believe the answer is a wood stove exchange program, but working with BCHydro to reduce heating rates. They could eliminate the 2 step rates for Valemount where we have no affordable alternative except wood heat.”

Nunweiler said even good wood stoves give off harmful particulate.

“Once my stove is going you don’t see the smoke, it’s clear and has a catalytic converter. But you are still putting out something, you can’t get around that.”

Nunweiler said it makes sense to heat with non-polluting power… like hydroelectricity.

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