Government will help low-income families manage electricity costs

Michelle Mungall

MINISTER of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall on Thursday said that people who have demonstrated need would have access to a lower rate for their electricity after the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) rejected a BC Hydro rate freeze.

Mungall said in a statement: “I am disappointed the BCUC turned down BC Hydro’s request for a one-year rate freeze, and instead, approved the previous government’s rate increase.

“We completely understand the affordability crisis so many families face, and will be taking action quickly to address the need to reduce electricity costs for those who need it most.

“Government will work with BC Hydro and customer groups on a lifeline rate program. The program could mean that people who have demonstrated need would have access to a lower rate for their electricity.

“In addition, starting in May, BC Hydro residential customers who find themselves in an emergency – such as loss of employment, unanticipated medical expenses or pending eviction for example – will be eligible for a grant toward their outstanding BC Hydro bill. The grant is up to $600 and does not need to be repaid.

“Last month, BC Hydro announced enhanced measures to help customers manage higher winter bills, including a winter payment plan, giving customers the option to spread bill payments over a six-month period, and increased funding for low-income energy-conservation programs.

“To lower electricity costs for B.C. businesses and industries, we are phasing out the provincial sales tax (PST) on electricity. Following the 50% reduction that started on Jan. 1, 2018, government will completely eliminate the PST on non-residential electricity on April 1, 2019. Residential use of electricity is already PST-exempt.

“Eliminating the PST on electricity will translate into savings of more than $150 million annually for B.C. businesses. This will help them create more jobs for British Columbians, expand into new markets, and reinvest in new technologies.

“Our government will also undertake a comprehensive review of BC Hydro to make it work for people. The review will identify changes and cost savings to keep rates low, while ensuring BC Hydro has the resources it needs to continue to provide clean, safe and reliable electricity. We expect to announce the scope and process for the review in the coming weeks.

“We respect the BCUC’s work and diligence as British Columbians’ independent regulator. Although disappointed with its decision, we understand the commission’s concerns and will work to address them, while implementing ways to make life more affordable for B.C. families.”