COVID-19: BC Hydro customers to get three months of bill relief

The B.C. government is offering bill relief for residential BC Hydro customers affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Qualifying households will receive a credit of three times their average monthly bill over the past year to help cover their electricity costs. The credit does not have to be repaid.

“We are facing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. People are out of work, and businesses are facing tough choices about whether they can stay open,” Premier John Horgan said.

“Giving people relief on their power bills lets them focus on the essentials, while helping businesses and encouraging critical industry to keep operating.”

Small businesses forced to close under the pandemic will have their bills forgiven for three months: April, May and June.

Major industries, like pulp mills and mines, will be able to defer 50 per cent of their bill payments for three months.

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The average residential customer’s bill is $159 per month, so the average credit provided will be $477. Some customers will also be eligible for BC Hydro’s existing Customer Crisis Fund, which provides access to grants of up to $600 to pay their bills.

The utility reminded the public on Wednesday about a one-per-cent rate cut for all customers, following interim approval by the BC Utilities Commission.

That’s an average savings of $16 a year for residential users, $715 for commercial customers, and $230,000 for industrial users.

BC Hydro has seen an uptick in residential power use over the past few weeks, as more people shift to working from home to prevent the spread of the virus.

The residential electricity load in the last two weeks of March was up about nine per cent, compared to the same period last year.

Staff have seen evidence of power use peaking later in the morning, likely due to some residents not having to wake up as early, or at all, for school or work, as well as an earlier evening peak, possibly because of people cooking dinner earlier because they do not have to commute home.

The Crown corporation also updated its projected rate changes for the next three years. For now, it’s forecasting a 2.7-per-cent increase in April 2021, a 0.3-per-cent decrease in 2022, and a three-per-cent increase in 2023.

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