FortisBC set to plug into new way of charging

Inclining block rate scheduled to take effect in July

FortisBC has been given the green light to implement a new rate structure for its electricity customers that will award green users with a cheaper bill.

The residential inclining block rate is a two-tier system that offers a lower rate than the company’s current flat rate for the first 1,600 kilowatt hours of electricity in a billing period and a higher rate for any remaining use.

Rates for commercial, wholesale, lighting and irrigation customers will remain the same.

“A block rate is designed to incent customers who save electricity,” explained Neal Pobran, corporate communications advisor. “The average FortisBC customer uses approximately 2,100 kWh every two months, and if they use less than this they will see savings and if they use less than 1,600 they will see even greater savings.”

Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs sits below the average at about 1,250 kWh used every two months but that is a level he has achieved since his kids have all grown up and left the homestead and after making energy efficient changes within the home like making use of a natural gas heat pump.

“I don’t personally have any faith that there is going to be savings but I know that this is the kind of initiative eventually we do have to look at if we’re going to get serious about conserving energy,” he said.

“People who can cut back, it’s admirable and I think we do need to conserve energy – there is no question about that – and certainly it’s hard to argue against this concept because that’s what we need to do, we need to save energy and this is one way to do it.”

While there may be savings for some low energy users, he wonders how the home of a large family will fair and whether this will really be the revenue-neutral move it’s coined as.

“What really concerns me too is that we’re generating over 50 per cent of the power for the entire province on the Columbia River Basin and we’re paying almost 25 per cent more for power here in an area where it’s all generated,” he added.

FortisBC was asked by the BC Utilities Commission to file a residential inclining block rate request at the end of March last year. After successfully going through a regulatory process, the company has been directed to implement the new structure July 1.

The current flat rate is approximately 9.5 cents per kWh. The company’s new structure will charge about 8.25 cents for the first 1,600 kWh of electricity billed and 12 cents for anything over and above.

FortisBC is currently going through a regulatory process regarding its revenue requirements application, which means the final number for the block rates are not set yet.