Now more than ever is a good time to take mom’s advice and put on a sweater if the house is too cold – both FortisBC electricity and natural gas bills will be higher in the new year.
The company announced the impending changes on Friday after receiving the go-ahead from provincial rates and standards of service regulators at the BCUC (British Columbia Utilities Commission).
Effective Jan. 1 FortisBC electric customers will see a rate increase of 2.76 per cent, or based on the average residential electricity user, approximately $3.65 more per month.
According to the news release, the rate hike is needed to maintain and upgrade electrical infrastructure, including the Kootenay Operations Centre currently under construction in Ootischenia.
“We work to ensure our customers have a stable source of power when they need it,” says Amy Bunton. FortisBC corporate communications advisor. “Most through upgrades and improvements to the system, and long-term electricity purchase agreements to meet customer growth and demand.”
BCUC has approved the rate as interim, Bunton added.
“The final rate change is subject to change based on further regulatory review in 2017.”
Fortis BC gas bills be slightly higher, approximately $1.25 per month or $15 per year, that’s based on the average residential annual usage in the Kootenays. Increased payments are not related to an increased natural gas rate, rather, it’s actually based on what’s termed a “delivery charge.”
All customers pay a basic charge of about $12 a month whether gas is being used or not. That rate is a flat daily fee (30 days at 0.39 per day) used to “partially recovers the fixed costs” and will remain unchanged for now.
“That basic charge is essentially to be connected to our system,” clarified Corporate Communications Manager Michael Allison. “There’s a service line that goes from the main to your meter at your home … that does need to be monitored and there is maintenance from time to time that would need to take place, so it covers that.”
The separate line item that will increase is the delivery charge, which pays for the cost of delivering gas throughout the system – that rate is going up to 4.299 GJ (gigajoule) or about $15 annually, based on average residential consumption.
“First of all, we review the cost of natural gas quarterly (every three months), we did review and there’s no change to the cost of gas,” Allison told the Trail Times. “The items that we are changing … they are actually reviewed quarterly but only set annually – we typically announce these changes in December for January 1,” he added. “There is a slight bill increase for most customers. However, we are a regulated utility, so we want customers to know that we are being transparent by showing all these line items on our bill, versus just one bundled item. And if customers do have any questions, they should just give us a call.”
Both Bunton and Allison remind FortisBC ratepayers about a variety of tools, advice and programs to help customers lower their energy costs. Information can be found at fortis.bc.com/rebates.
“On our website we do have a number of items,” explained Allison. “One is our energy savings kit that is free for income qualified households, if you are having trouble meeting your energy savings targets.”
The kit includes an LED bulbs, an efficient shower head, kitchen and bathroom faucet aerators, weatherstripping, window film plus outlet and switch sealers.
“Outlet covers insulate outward facing power outlets where you might get some draft,” explained Allison. “Those (kit items) add up to help, especially people living in older homes, that don’t have that modern energy efficiency construction built into it.”
Rebates and offers include incentives to upgrade to Energy Star rated appliances and space or water heating systems.
“For example if someone wants to upgrade their appliance, they are looking to spend some money of course,” said Allison. “We do want to incentivize a purchase that gives them a more efficient appliance that what they may have had before.”
He mentioned FortisBC’s energy conservation assistance program that includes a home energy evaluation and products for income qualified renters or homeowners.
“If customers are an electricity customer, there’s incentives for that as well, along with natural gas incentives to help upgrade.”