FortisBC proposes to re-establish single, flat rate over five years

By on January 9, 2018

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes, RDOS Area G director Elef Christensen and Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff listen to a discussion of a proposal by FortisBC to return to flat electricity rates phased in over five years, with an option for customers to switch to time-of-use billing. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

FortisBC has announced that it will apply to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) to nix the controversial two-tier residential conservation rate and go back to a single, flat rate – phased in over five years.


That’s what one director said upon hearing the news from FortisBC during a presentation to the regional district board on Thursday.

Regulatory Affairs Manager Corey Sinclair said FortisBC will also re-establish the time-of-use rate as an option for residential customers.

According to the company, residential customers have an option to reduce their energy costs by shifting their high consumption activities to off-peak hours. This time-of-use option is one of the benefits made possible by advanced meters, which now provide accurate hourly consumption data.

Sinclair said the reason for transitioning back to a single rate is to lessen the burden on high-consuming customers. He also noted that many conservation initiatives have been exhausted.

Sinclair did point out that moving back to a flat rate increases annual electric billing for approximately 70 per cent of customers. This would include some low-income and seniors. According to Sinclair, the five-year transition spreads the impact over time.

FortisBC says this phased-in approach is intended to mitigate annual rate impacts for lower consumption customers.

But Area G director Elef Christensen didn’t buy that argument, saying it only took FortisBC one year to establish the two-tier rate structure. Therefore, it should bring back the flat rate within one year, he said.

But Sinclair reiterated the five-year plan will “smooth out” the negative rate impacts on 70 per cent of customers.

But Christensen fired back that the five years is for FortisBC’s benefit, not the customer’s.

Area F director Michael Brydon said going back to the single rate is exactly what the board wants, but he said calling it a “flat rate” is misleading because it’s really a constant variable rate.

He also argued that 70 per cent of these customers would only see a small increase going back to a single rate.

“But a lot of electrical users will see a huge decrease (in their rates),” Brydon said.

Sinclair said customers who are negatively impacted by the current two-tier system tend to be those in the higher consumption ranges.

Area D director Tom Siddon said it should only take a year or less to get rid of the two-tier system, which is negatively impacting a lot of people who don’t have any options other than electric heat.

“Five more years of the same will not help many (of these) people.”

The regional district board passed a motion to support a group of Anarchist Mountain residents, led by Nick Marty, in their challenge against the two-tier rate structure.

Bill Newell, the regional district’s chief administrative officer, suspects that Marty will challenge the five-year phase-in plan.

The board agreed to release (to Marty) the 240 testimonials it received from FortisBC customers regarding how the two-tier rate structure has impacted them.

There was some concern that releasing the testimonials contravened the privacy act, but the board decided to redact all personal information before handing the letters over.

Area C director Terry Schafer said he wants as many testimonials as possible in the hands of the BCUC.

Brydon agreed, saying these people want their stories told.


Special to the Times

RDOS Area A director Mark Pendergraft (centre) comments on the discussion of electricity rates. On the left is Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

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