Regulator rejects BC governments promised hydro rate freeze

first_imgVICTORIA – Hydro rates in British Columbia will increase three per cent in April after the province’s independent energy regulator overruled a government promise to freeze rates for one year.Energy Minister Michelle Mungall said Thursday she’s disappointed with the B.C. Utilities Commission’s ruling, but it has prompted the government to immediately start planning to help those who are struggling to pay their power bills.“I would have liked to have seen a much different response for British Columbians, but I appreciate their rationale,” she said. “I understand it and will be moving forward with other alternatives for making life more affordable.”The commission rejected a request from the government to freeze rates, saying other increases have done little to meet the revenue needs at BC Hydro.“The panel ultimately found there to be insufficient regulatory justification to warrant lower increases because even these increases do not fully recover BC Hydro’s forecast revenue requirement, which includes items such as operating costs, new capital expenditures, and carrying costs on capital expenditures,” the commission said in a statement.Mungall said the government will work with the Crown-owned utility on a so-called lifeline rate program that could result in some hydro customers with demonstrated needs getting a lower rate for electricity.She said the government will also consider providing a grant of up to $600 for hydro customers facing financial emergencies.The NDP government campaigned last spring on promises to tackle rising hydro rates and last November Mungall announced plans to request that the utilities commission freeze the scheduled April increase.The commission has also formally approved rate increases of four per cent in 2016 and 3.5 per cent last year.Mungall said the government will conduct a review of BC Hydro in a bid to find savings and keep rates low. The scope of the review will be announced in the next few weeks, she said.“The (utilities commission) are very clear in a nutshell that this is a mess,” Mungall said. “There’s a mess that is at BC Hydro. It needs to be cleaned up and I hear that.”Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said the rate hike is just another broken promise by the NDP government.“This is a government that stumbles into messes that cost all of us because they put rhetoric ahead of planning,” Wilkinson said in a statement. “It’s clear, British Columbians can’t afford this government.”Green Leader Andrew Weaver said he’s glad to see the government respecting the independence of the utility commission, but the increase shows a need for income security across the province.last_img

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