Nelson Hydro rates rise, solar rates set

Nelson Hydro rates will rise by 3.8 per cent starting in April.

Construction on Nelson's solar garden at Bonnington will start in April.

Construction on Nelson's solar garden at Bonnington will start in April.

Nelson Hydro rates will increase 3.8 per cent in April. City council made the decision this month, after the proposed rate was approved by the BC Utilities Commission.

Management staff originally asked council for a 4.37 per cent increase but council cut that back during its budget deliberations, according to chief financial officer Colin McClure.

Much of the increase comes as a result of a FortisBC rate increase of 3.12 per cent, but McClure said there were also a number of other factors: inflation, Nelson Hydro collective agreement increases, and the depletion of reserves from paying about $800,000 for windstorm cleanup and repair last summer.

Nelson Hydro buys approximately half its power from FortisBC. Purchase costs in 2015 were about $6 million.

The hydro rate increases will amount to a minimum basic residential urban and rural rate of $7.50 per month plus 9.712 cents per kWh. For urban small commercial, the minimum basic rate will be $17.17 plus 11.068 cents per kWh, and for a rural business $17.70 plus 11.40 cents per kWh.

Council has also confirmed the purchase price of for its solar garden panels will be a maximum of $923.45 per panel.

Project head Carmen Proctor says 225 out of 240 panels have sold, construction will start in April, and that it’s hoped the panels will come on line by the end of May.

The solar garden will consist of an array of solar panels owned by Nelson Hydro at its Bonnington site on which residents can rent space for a 25-year period and be credited annually on their bill. It will be the solar energy production from the panels that the customer will purchase, not the panels themselves.

“We have had a positive outpouring of support from around the province,” she said. “People are super excited about this. It’s full steam ahead.”