Keeping trees clear of power lines and removing downed trees from the lines after storms cost Nelson Hydro two and a half times as much in 2018 as in previous years, according the the utility’s manager.
“We have increased our vegetation management budget by 33 per cent this year,” Alex Love told the Star.
He says this seems to be a trend among power utilities, stating that BC Hydro has reported a tripling of tree problems due to an increase in wind storms.
“One reason is that we have had some hot dry summers and I think, talking to tree experts, when a wind storm comes along, it is not breaking the tree, it is just tipping it over, root ball and everything. It might be that drying soil is making those trees less stable.”
As a result, Nelson Hydro’s budget for vegetation management is going up by $50,000 this year in Nelson and $100,000 in the surrounding areas.
That was one of the reasons for Nelson council’s approval on Jan. 7 of an electrical rate increase of 1.5 per cent in Nelson and 2.94 per cent for Nelson Hydro’s rural customers for 2019, applying to both residential and business customers.
This will amount to an average increase of $1.56 per month for Nelson residents, according to Love.
He told council that the rate changes will also fund inflation and long-term capital requirements, such as a new submarine cable installation near the Orange Bridge and concrete work at the dam in 2019, and upgrades at the Mill Street substation in 2020.
The reason for a higher increase in the rural areas is that operational costs, including vegetation management, are higher because due to low population density, Love said. “You have more miles of line per customer.”
Nelson Hydro’s service area extends from its power plant on the Kootenay River up Kootenay Lake to Coffee Creek north of Queens Bay, and along Highway 6 past Perrier Road.
The increases passed third reading at council on Jan. 7 and will come back for final adoption at a future meeting. The rural rate increase has to have the approval of the BC Utilities Commission, but the urban increase does not.
The shareholder dividend paid to the city by Nelson Hydro this year will increase from $2.7 million in 2018 to $2.8 million in 2019.