Over the past few weeks I have received a number of letters from constituents voicing their concerns about the recent announcement that BC Hydro will be raising the rates British Columbians pay for electricity.
Hydro Rates have been artificially low for a number of years now, based in large part because British Columbians are still benefiting from investments into hydroelectric dams from several decades ago. BC Hydro is now reinvesting in these capital projects, while also making investments in new projects to ensure that it can meet growing demand.
The reality that rates need to increase should not detract from a number of other concerns relating to BC Hydro’s operations including: political intervention, the role of BCUC and the overuse of deferral accounts, to name a few. All of these issues will play a role in determining future hydro rates. There is no simple solution to the challenges facing our public utility. We need to have a serious discussion about how we generate, manage, oversee and deliver our power.
In the meantime, however, there is also the need to ensure that decisions made today do not adversely affect those who are most vulnerable. Given that rates are going up dramatically over such a short period of time, we need to protect low-income earners. It is unacceptable to leave people choosing between essentials. In response to some of the concerns raised by constituents, I have sent the following letter to Minister Bennett:
Dear Minister Bennett,
Like you, I have been the recipient of a large number of emails expressing concern over the proposed BC Hydo rate hikes. I recognize that British Columbians presently pay some of the lowest electricity rates in North America as we benefit from capital investments made decades ago. I also recognize that our electricity rates will need to increase in the years ahead if we plan to update our aging infrastructure and bring on new sources of power.
Within our society, there are some who will struggle to pay the 28% increase over the next five years due to our high cost of living, particularly in Greater Vancouver and Victoria. As such, I am writing to suggest that your ministry consider introducing an energy rebate mirrored after the current carbon tax rebate for low income British Columbians. In addition, I assume that BC Hydro will continue its Power Smart for low-income households program.
By fixing the low-income energy rebate as a direct percentage of the carbon tax rebate, administrative overhead would be minimal. Such a rebate could be phased out with time, but its introduction is important to mitigate the economic shock to our lowest income residents.
Thank you in advance for considering this request.
MLA Oak Bay-Gordon Head
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