The B.C. Utilities Commission has refused the NDP government’s planned B.C. Hydro rate freeze, approving a three per cent increase for 2018.
The commission announced Thursday that it has approved increases of four per cent for 2016, 3.5 per cent for 2017 and three per cent to take effect April 1 of this year. The increases were part of the B.C. Liberal government’s 10-year rate plan, as it embarked on the Site C dam project and major refits of dams in the Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island.
Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announced in November that the government had instructed B.C. Hydro to change its application to the commission to deliver a rate freeze for this year.
Mungall said she is disappointed about the decision, and blamed it on the “financial mess” left behind by the B.C. Liberal government, which piled up deferred debt and directed the commission to hold rates down in previous years.
“We chose not to go with that direction, because we felt that was an inappropriate way to start our relationship with this independent regulator,” Mungall said.
She noted that people who have difficulty paying their electricity bills will soon be able to apply for a “crisis grant,” and the utility’s winter rate program is in effect to allow people to defer payment of the highest electricity bills of the year.
Mungall said the BCUC review looked beyond rates to the broader financial state of the utility.
“And what they uncovered, in a nutshell, is a mess,” Mungall said. “And it’s not fair to ratepayers, it’s not fair to British Columbians and that’s why we’re going to clean up that mess.”
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the rate freeze is another broken promise, along with the NDP’s $400-a-year rebate for renters and $10-a-day child care.