Rest of province pays less for power

I was outraged when I received my electricity bill recently.

To the editor:

Like many residents within the Southern Interior I was outraged when I received my electricity bill recently.

In order to vent some steam I posted a picture of my bill on Facebook and was astounded at the response from other friends. Apparently I was not an exception and decided to do some research into just how a utility company with a monopoly was permitted such punitive increases.

These are the facts gathered to date:

1. Fortis took over a territory in the Southern Interior of B.C. for servicing electricity from the Crown corporation BC Hydro which now services the Central/Northern and Coastal area of the province with electricity.

Recently the BCUC BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) approved a new rate structure called the Residential Conservation Rate. Their rates are very different: BC Hydro charges 6.8 cents/kWh to 1350kWh base then 10.19 cents/kWh for usage over and above the base. FORTIS is allowed to charge 8.8 cents/kWh to 1600kWh base and 12.95 cents/kWh for the balance of power used.

As a further discrimination these rates are highly punitive for those households who use more than the base amount.

2. The BC Utilities Commission mission statement quoted directly from their website reads: “The Commission’s mission is to ensure that ratepayers receive safe, reliable and non-discriminatory energy services at fair rates from the utilities it regulates, and that shareholders of those utilities are afforded a reasonable opportunity to earn a fair return on their invested capital.”

3. The BCUC is the same commission that regulates ICBC and is an independent arm of the B.C. provincial government. The commission operates within the confines of the Utilities Commission Act. Under this Act the commission has the power and is obligated to insure fair and non-discriminatory billing from utility companies. The commission is funded by rate payers (all of us) by way of a levy on our utility bills. The head of the commission is a hired vs. elected position. Still trying to find out who made the hiring decision for the CEO of the BCEU—I assume it’s the Lieutenant Governor of the province.

Now I pride myself in being a fair and reasonable guy and don’t deny that I could use some motivation to save a little electricity for the common good of the planet and my fellow man. All too often I forget to flip the switch off on my way out the door.

For sure, I am not opposed to incentivising conservation if it’s a fair system. That’s where my blood starts to boil.

Firstly, why is it that the rest of the province pays so much less than us for power? Is this fair? The bulk of our province’s hydro facilities were paid for by tax dollars from us all. When I asked Fortis this question the gal on the phone stated that BC Hydro was a Crown corporation and Fortis was a public company. Obviously their shareholders expected a return on their investment so they could not possibly compete with BC Hydro.

Hmmm.—and I thought that privatization was intended to create efficiencies and lower costs for the end user. Apparently the rest of the province’s hydro bills are being subsidized by us in the Southern Interior.  Just seems discriminatory to me and most folks I talk to.

Secondly, how about our new Residential Conservation Rate? Any power incentive plan that is fair should have an achievable quota for one who does everything possible to conserve energy.

I have a large home filled with a big family who live at home because they can’t afford the high cost of a house of their own yet. I can take every ‘energy saving’ measure known to man and I still can’t get all my power in the base rate.

How about those green-minded folks who converted to geo-thermal (bless their hearts) and now find the cost of running their systems outrageously high?

Then there’s my assistant; a single mom of two who resides in a small townhouse and is highly hydro conscious, now offside $700 on the equal payment plan.

Make no mistake, the Residential Conservation Rate needs to be amended retroactively and far more thought put into the right conservation billing structure.

Please join this writer in petitioning our elected officials to address this unjust issue. Perhaps a class action law suit and a change of government are in order if this highly discriminatory offense is not corrected post haste.

Ken Umbarger,



Kelowna Capital News