LETTER: Jessen responds to Yanke about Nelson Hydro
Re: 'Letter: Is Nelson Hydro a stealth tax?" Dec. 30
It is so easy to criticize Nelson Hydro for asking for yet another rate hike since almost no one likes to pay more for something that is a basic necessity of life. But it is also a basic fact that Nelson Hydro is a profit-making enterprise for the City of Nelson, a city that is woefully lacking any major industry and little light industry to support its tax base. Go to the website of the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute at www.cbrdi.ca and look at the municipal tax rates for just Nelson, Castlegar and Trail to understand Nelson’s situation.
With its many heritage homes, 42% of Nelson’s single detached homes were built before 1946 compared to the provincial average of 7.5 per cent. To its credit, the City of Nelson embarked on the EcoSave program encouraging many residents to fix their problem homes and pay the cost of doing so back to the utility on their power bills or by taking out a loan.This, in my opinion, has put Nelson Hydro in an awkward position – it is a profit-making utility now trying to get its customers to use less.
The real reason to raise the price of any energy should be to encourage people to move to lower consumption lifestyles and activities and to put that decision-making power in the hands of individuals as opposed to the hands of government regulation. Nelson’s buildings need far more than cosmetic energy saving, but deep retrofits – a fact that can provide the city with a new economic driver and employment generator that will last for years and even generate innovative spinoffs.
And yes, this will cost money which is why the project should be put into the hands of an Energy Saving Trust – a non-profit organization run by a board of directors for the benefit of the community that can access and leverage funding that a town or a utility cannot. The last time I checked, ESTs or their equivalent existed in nine countries and at least seven U.S. states. Check out the website of the British EST at http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/ to see all the services it offers.
An Energy Saving Trust gives impartial, accurate and independent advice to communities and households on how to reduce carbon emissions and energy usage. We need that – far more than an audit of Nelson Hydro.