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Rising electricity rates raise concerns by local residents

BC Hydro's plans include closing the Burrard Thermal Plant in Port Moody in 2016.  Photo from the City of Port Moody
BC Hydro’s plans include closing the Burrard Thermal Plant in Port Moody in 2016.
Photo from the City of Port Moody

BC Hydro’s electricity rates will rise by 25.5 per cent over the next five years, as part of a 10 year plan announced this morning.

The increases are a result of capital investment by BC Hydro to the tune of $1.7-billion per year for 10 years, aimed at establishing new infrastructure and repairing or replacing the old.

The first increase, at nine per cent, comes into effect next year. 

Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, said the Canadian government is trying to keep rates down for all classes of ratepayers, particularly heavy industry.

A nine per cent increase rate for residential users is about $8 more per month, while for a small commercial customer, it’s about $20 more per month, he said.

“For the large industrial users who use an enormous amount of electricity, rate increases for them can be very difficult to manage,” Bennett said. “A nine per cent increase on the heavy industrial side could add $139,000 per month.”

B.C. electricity rates: low in comparison to other cities

According to Bennett, B.C. has some of the lowest electricity rates in North America.

Charles Reid, CEO of BC Hydro, cited an annual study done by Hydro-Quebec during the announcement, which surveyed 22 North American cities and indicated that Vancouver has the third-lowest pre-tax electricity rates.

According to the survey, Vancouver pays an average of $130 per month, Toronto pays an average of $182 per month and Calgary pays an average of $216 per month.

“Today the average home pays about three dollars per day for electricity,” said Reid. “We think that’s pretty good value when you compare it against everything else you spend on in today’s world.”

A comparison of electricity rates in Canada. Infographic by Hydro Quebec
A 2013 comparison of electricity rates in North America.
Infographic by Hydro-Quebec

Increases concern local residents

However, for some Vancouver residents, any increase to the cost of living is a problem.

“It’s a significant increase,” said Paul Prosperi, political science chair at Langara. “For people who are living on a fixed income, any increase is significant.”

Marketing student Natalie Johnson said she lives with several roommates, which helps reduce the cost of living, but she was still concerned by news of the increase.

“Students can’t imagine paying anymore than they already do,” she said. “I’m all for planning ahead but 25 per cent sounds like a lot.”

Reported by Bill Everitt

Watch below as Bill Bennett discusses the 10 year plan:

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