Letter: Two-tier electricity rate

Energy rebates and other sweeteners cannot mask the underlying unfairness of the (BC Utilities Commission) pricing scheme.

To the editor:

As an electrical engineer with over 20 years of experience I feel compelled to speak up regarding the two-tier residential electricity rate that has been mandated by the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC). It is not only that my own electricity bills are at an absurd level—my Fortis bill for the last two months was $1,700—but it is also the misinformation being spread by the BCUC and the unwillingness of the Liberal government to address the issue that require comment.

The BCUC labels the rate a “Residential Conservation Rate,” which is a transparent attempt to obscure the truth. It is a fixed rate plus a variable rate penalty that is levied beyond 1,600 KWh of usage. The penalty rises (very rapidly at first) as you use more electricity, eventually exceeding an astonishing 30 per cent. Such rate structures are inherently unfair because they are based on the plainly false assumption that all electricity customers are identical. If you have no alternative but to heat your house using electricity as I do, then you are severely penalized by the rate structure. If you have more children than another household and hence use more electricity, you too are penalized and will pay disproportionally higher rates than those with fewer children. Should you happen to have a slightly larger house than your neighbour then you will also face higher per KWh rates.

To understand the absurdity of what the BCUC has done, imagine visiting your local hardware store to buy bolts for a deck. On offer are single bolts for $0.10 per bolt, or a box of 100 bolts for $0.15 per bolt. In other words, if you buy the bolts in bulk you pay more per bolt than buying them individually. Any reasonable person would find such a pricing scheme ridiculous, yet that in a nutshell is what the BCUC has imposed on electricity customers. Such pricing schemes can only be incubated and survive in the make believe land of government imposed regulation.

I have contacted the BCUC on several occasions regarding this matter and it is clear they have no serious intention of addressing it. They argue that they are following a government mandate, yet my local MLA’s office has told me that my only recourse is to keep pressuring the BCUC. It is an odd suggestion given that the BCUC is governed by legislation which the Liberal majority government could swiftly change if they so wished. Something does not add up in these finger-pointing responses, and this has understandably added to the frustration felt by many electricity customers. It is not even clear if the two-tier rate complies with the existing legislation under which the BCUC must operate.

Space does not permit me to say everything that needs to be said on this subject; such an egregious abuse of authority by a regulating body requires several pages to fully dissect. Energy rebates and other sweeteners cannot mask the underlying unfairness of the pricing scheme, and the fact that the BCUC unscrupulously mislabels what they have done should concern everyone. One thing is clear: Residents of British Columbia need to voice their concerns more loudly if anything is to change. Never forget, the BCUC and the government work for us, not the other way around.

Nicholas R. Swart,



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