People in BC live in energy poverty when they are unable to afford residential electricity and natural gas services to meet their reasonable daily needs. This problem is amplified because:
- low-income households are the least able to alter their use of energy or pay for energy efficiency improvements, and
- low-income people tend to live in older homes with low efficiency insulation and appliances.
Increasing electricity and natural gas costs are therefore much more difficult for low-income people to cope with.
Increasing electricity and natural gas costs are much more difficult for low-income people to cope with.
BCPIAC lawyers represent a coalition of seniors’, tenants’, disability and anti-poverty organizations in proceedings before the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC), in order to ensure that the interests of low and fixed income residential electricity and natural gas residential ratepayers are considered. BCPIAC has been participating in these processes since the early 1980s.
The BCUC regulates the rates charged by monopoly electricity and natural gas utilities BC Hydro, FortisBC Energy, FortisBC Inc., and Pacific Northern Gas. The BCUC also regulates some smaller utilities.
BCPIAC’s role is increasingly important as electricity and natural gas rates in BC continue to rise at a much faster rate than welfare rates and the minimum wage.
In the current and ongoing BC Hydro Rate Design Application, BCPIAC is proposing four programs for low income ratepayers:
- Implementation of a reduced rate for an essential block of electricity;
- Creation of a crisis assistance fund for customers who are having difficulty paying their electricity bills;
- Adoption of low income customer rules, such as:
- waiver of security deposits, late payment fees and reconnection fees;
- more flexible payment arrangements;
- suspension of disconnections during cold weather periods and for customers with medical emergencies; and
- An enhanced home energy retrofit program
Evidence uncovered through the RDA proceeding shows that since smart meters were installed, BC Hydro is disconnecting about 30,000 customers a year for non-payment of bills. Before smart meters, BC Hydro was only cutting off about 6,000 customers a year.
We have submitted detailed evidence to support our proposals:
- Roger Colton, an expert in low income rate design from the United States, has provided a report detailing the bill affordability proposals:
- Seth Klein, CCPA-BC Executive Director, has provided expert evidence on socio-economic conditions in BC and described BC’s increasing incidence of energy poverty.
- Five ratepayers and six anti-poverty advocates provided powerful direct evidence of their own experiences (and those of their clients) about the hardships caused by rising BC Hydro rates.
All of BCPIAC’s evidence can be viewed here.
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Anti-poverty advocates call for BC Hydro to implement an electricity affordability program for BC’s poor