We have survived the January crunch of paying bills and with such great weather we are looking like spring. As we say goodbye to winter, I would invite you to look at your most recent B.C. Hydro bill.
Better yet, also get one from last summer - if you keep them. Take a good look. Does the recent bill have a charge called Step 2? Look at last summer's bill. Did it have a Step 2 charge?
Welcome to the maze of B.C. Hydro finances.
In 2008, B.C. Hydro, at the direction of the government and after many years of talk, introduced "conservation pricing" on the bills. Supposedly, most of your electricity would continue to come to you under the Step 1 rate, and only a few customers would see the higher rate, called Step 2, on their bills.
As you and I practiced conservation, the amount in Step 2 would reduce and probably disappear.
The Step 2 electricity rate was initially set at a 22 per cent premium over Step 1.The province-wide bill revenue was to be held "neutral" due to a simultaneous small decrease in the Step 1 rate.
Fast-forward to 2014 and you will find the Step 2 premium has climbed to 50 per cent over Step 1. If you heat with electricity, you are almost guaranteed to be buying the electricity for heating at a 50 per cent premium - the Step 2 price.
Recently I was told by B.C. Hydro the Step 1 maximum is now the average of residential billings. Note we have moved from something like 90-plus per cent of bills and homes being just at Step1 to only half. That means the small minority paying Step 2 back in 2008 has become half of all consumers. Hardly conservation! Or has the benchmark been moved on us?
We are told Step 2 pricing reflects the replacement cost of electricity at today's prices. However there hasn't been a major hydro project for decades so how do they know about the pricing? Complaints to B.C. Hydro are sent on to the B.C. Utilities Commission, then to government and then back to B.C. Hydro. No answers, no help.
If you are frustrated, you might like to know that B.C. Hydro last year contributed $167 million to the provincial government's "balanced budget." That's money from you and me from this two-tier pricing scheme.
It's time to stop this practice. Let those who heat with electricity get it at the same price as "regular electricity." For decades B.C. Hydro promoted "safe, economical electricity for heating." Now that many thousands have installed electric heat in their homes, they have us because once installed, you can't change. Hence whatever price they want, we have to pay!
If you want to join others looking for a change, let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org.