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Posted: February 5, 2017

So much for putting B.C. families first

Letter to the Editor

The bills of January always bring us back into reality from last month’s splurge. No one, rich or poor is exempt. You play….you pay. We consumers have little choice when it comes to “paying up.” The day of financial reckoning is upon us….unless you happen to be on the BC Liberals’ “preferred ” list.

When it comes to the cost of paying your electricity bill, we are not all considered equal under the BC Liberals electricity policy. You might recall that on Nov. 4/2016, the Woodfibre LNG project in Squamish, made an announcement to move ahead with their project. The BC government has had little luck for initiating the LNG industry here in BC. Other than purposing for LNG exports, the government has created no other options or uses for B.C. natural gas. In other words: No Plan B.

The sobering reality is that there is a glut of LNG on the world market. Many LNG facilities from around the world, are struggling to maintain their status in this economic climate of reduced prices and demand. At the same time, BC Hydro has an over supply or glut of electricity to sell as well – at a reduced rate – to its “preferred” customers, only.

So, under the present economic circumstance, what “incentive” has the B.C. government offered to the Indonesian owner of Woodfibre LNG to move forward? Premier Christy Clark has directed BC Hydro, our publicly-owned Crown corporation to offer a special discounted rate.

We have learned that Woodfibre LNG will receive a significant electricity rate reduction, called the “eDrive” rate. The eDrive rate will be for used for the sole purpose of liquefying natural gas over the 25 year lifetime of this project.

Yet again, the B.C. government bypassed scrutiny by the B.C. Utilities Commission. The BCUC was not allowed to participate in this particular decision. Instead, the eDrive rate was granted by government “Order in Council. ” Meanwhile, the B.C. residential users have received a barrage of electricity rate increases over the course of years now. An additional three per cent is looming on April 1. Wouldn’t it be nice if the rest of us could also be offered reduced costs or defer our payments for a really long time?

The BCUC will continue to review normal B.C. residential Hydro rates. Why does the government not have a problem with allowing the BC Utilities Commission to deal with residential rate increases affecting the average person but not for big industry?

An organization called the BC Public Advocacy Centre has been actively representing hundreds of thousands of lower-middle income British Columbians, and seniors on fixed incomes by attempting to help them obtain discounted Hydro rates. It has become much more difficult for many to pay their hydro bills. The B.C. government has not demonstrated any empathy or intervention with the BCUC process on behalf of us. Instead, we will all soon be experiencing much higher electricity bills in the very near future.

Oddly, BC Hydro has been fighting against these discounted rates for lower/middle income earners. In fact, our Energy Minister Bill Bennett is dismissive of these residential discount measures, stating arrogantly that the rates are “affordable.” If these rates are indeed “affordable” for the rest of us, why then does the LNG industry need the special “discounted eDrive” rate?

BC Hydro residential rates have increased a whopping 51% in 11 years with an additional 30% slated by 2023. The government is subsidizing the Woodfibre LNG plant to the tune of $34 million per year. That would add about 50 cents per monthly billing for the average BC Hydro customer. So, why will the government not help folks trying to keep the heat and lights on during this cold winter?

In this an election year, it might be time to ask your MLA the question: Why does big industry get the government’s preferred eDrive rate while the average customer (you or me) gets to absorb the extra subsidy cost as well as any additional rate increases coming on April 1?

Woodfibre LNG will get a reduced power rate by using BC Hydro electricity. They will be paying less than half the Tier 2 rate that the rest of us are putting out. The average family will actually pay more than double the “eDrive” rate that Woodfibre LNG has been granted.

So much for putting “BC families first.” We wonder if we will even hear that slogan again during the 2017 Election Campaign?

And by the way… good luck on paying off those January credit card bills.

Addenda: BC Hydro just recently announced that due to the excessively cold winter throughout the province, it will offer its residential customers extensions or some deferment of hydro payments over a longer span of time… still NO discounts on either Tier 1 or Tier 2 rates for regular customers.

Rick Koechl,

Charlie Lake

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