FortisBC rate hike plugs in New Year’s Day

Company has interim approval for 3.3 per cent increase.

New year’s cheer will probably be followed by a new year jeer when FortisBC electrical customers start paying a 3.3 per cent rate increase effective the first day of 2014.

“We filed an application for the 3.3 per cent increase with the BC Utilities Commission in July,” confirmed Neal Pobran, FortisBC corporate communications manager. “And we did get interim approval for that rate increase.”

Pobran said the interim approval allows for the rate increase effective Jan. 1, however the rates setting procedure is ongoing and could be subject to change based on that regulatory process.

“If the rate changes, customers’ bills will be adjusted accordingly,” he added.

The FortisBC rate increase confirmation comes on the heels of BC Hydro’s announcement this week when Energy Minister Bill Bennett laid out that company’s 10-year plan that includes a 15 per cent rate hike in the next two years, and then 10.5 per cent three years after that.

Although those rate hikes appear to be monumental, FortisBC customers are currently paying more for electricity and will continue to pay more, said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs.

Bogs is chair of a mayoral committee that addressed Les MacLaren (Assistant Deputy for the Ministry of Energy) with a report from the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS) which illuminated the fact that FortisBC residential consumer rates are, on average, 20 per cent higher than its counterpart, BC Hydro.

The energy report was commissioned earlier this year by the Energy and Sustainability Committee of the LCCDTS to review and compare the rate disparities.

“Our objective is to find out what can be done to ensure that our rates are closer to BC Hydro,” said the mayor.

“Even with Hydro’s increases we will still be paying more,” he explained. “Because we are already paying up to 25 per cent higher and will see more rate increases over the next five years,” said Bogs.

“The committee is hoping to meet before Christmas for intelligent conversation and to see what we can do about this from a political perspective.”

Every year FortisBC has a rates setting process with the BC Utilities Commission that is open to anyone who wishes to attend or take part in at BCUC.com, said Pobran.

“The big difference is that we have different customer classes,” Pobran told the Trail Times. “So residential is 20 per cent higher but our commercial customers are a little bit lower so there is that to consider right now.”

Another rate hike burns Warfield Mayor Bert Crockett for a few reasons.

Crockett is a member of the group of mayors who met with MacLaren in August.

“The whole deal is that Fortis is getting a higher bottom line under the guise of energy conservation,” he said. “Charging more may have the customer thinking twice about how much energy is being used,” Crockett explained. “But at the end of the day the incline rate is wrong especially for people who have no choice but electrical heat, which Fortis has already made a whole pile of money on,” he continued. “To me that is just not right. They should just charge so much per kilowatt hour and then I will make my own adjustments on how much I heat my house. It’s really not their concern how I use my energy so long as I pay my bill.”

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