Channel the rate hike anger

Hearing that Nelson Hydro is hiking rates by 9.6 per cent is upsetting. Knowing it’s going to cost more to turn on the lights, fire up the computer, and cook the dinner is never easy.

Hearing that Nelson Hydro is hiking rates by 9.6 per cent is upsetting. Knowing it’s going to cost more to turn on the lights, fire up the computer, and cook the dinner is never easy.

There’s good reason for locals to be upset, but the anger should be directed at the BC Utilities Commission.

A couple of years ago, Nelson Hydro entered into a power sale agreement with FortisBC. Energy sales are big business and with a locally owned generating facility it made sense to get in on the action.

In eight months Nelson Hydro raked in $200,000 in sales. As directed by city council, the profits were to be put into initiatives like climate action plan objectives and infrastructure. Cheaper rates for local users were also part of the mix.

Then as quickly as it started, a complaint by BC Hydro and a ruling by the utilities commission put an end to the brief windfall. The case is complex and involved plenty of legal fees, but in the end we were screwed.

Instead of rewarding a small community whose pioneers had the foresight to invest in building their own hydro dam, the utilities commission (with support from the provincial government) punished us. Instead of taking into account the fact we are a struggling rural community without a major industrial base, we were robbed of funds that would have gone a long ways towards a more efficient and leading edge community.

The Nelson Hydro generating plant was built at the expense of Nelson residents and the benefits should flow back to those who took the risk. BC Hydro infrastructure was built by the residents of the province (including Nelson) and the benefits do flow back to the entire province. Effectively the utilities commission ruling means some of the Nelson Hydro benefits are going to the entire province. It makes no sense.

Nobody likes rate increases, but we should be grateful for Nelson Hydro and those who had the courage to get us to this point. We still enjoy some of the cheapest electricity in the province.

Any anger on the electricity front should be aimed at the BC Utilities Commission and the Province of British Columbia.