LETTER: Basic charge should be ‘abolished’

Our initial investment was $3,720 for all the appliances and to date we have recouped $2,827.48.

Recently, I received the last of six power bills from FortisBC for our household electrical consumption for 2014.

In 2006 we consumed 6,216 kWh, as compared to 3,260 to December 12th, 2014. That is 47.6 per cent fewer kWh than in 2006. If we had continued consuming power at the same rate as 2006 our total bill for electricity in 2014 would have been $911.17, before taxes, instead of the $477.84 we paid.

In the nine years over which we purchased a new washing machine, stove, fridge, freezer, and changed our light bulbs from incandescent to fluorescent and now to LED, we have consumed 21,684 fewer kWh. If you calculate that there were 54 billing periods over those nine years, then Gail and I have consumed an average of 402 fewer kWh per billing period.

In the big scheme of things that is not much. Our initial investment was $3,720 for all the appliances and to date we have recouped $2,827.48. But in every year that the cost of electricity increases, those saved kWh increase in dollar value. In our first year, before we had purchased all the new appliances, we only saved $166.82, but in 2014 the savings were $433.43.

We paid $470.17 for electricity in 2013 and $477.84 in 2014, but our savings increased from $421.83 last year to $433.43 this year. Interestingly, when we calculate the average savings per bill over the last 54 billing periods, we have saved $52.36 per bill. As a lower income senior I think $26.18 per month is a significant saving to be had, especially when you find out that in 2014 that has grown to $36.12 per month.

Further, in 2006, we paid $44.86 per month for our electricity and have just paid $39.82 per month in 2014. My ongoing issue with FortisBC is that in 2006 we paid a basic charge of $10.55 per month to be hooked up to their power grid, whereas in 2014 that has risen to $15.16. In fact the Basic Charge as a percentage of our bill has risen from 23.5 per cent in 2006 to 38.1 per cent in 2014: $126.55 versus $181.89.

To date I have been unsuccessful in persuading the BC Utilities Commission that the basic charge should be either abolished or set at a standard amount per kWh used. I was successful in persuading the Utilities Commission to de-couple the increase in the basic charge from the actual power rate increases, by arguing that fixed costs for FortisBC were not and should not rise as fast as the cost of producing and/or purchasing power on the spot market.

When you next go to the gas station, imagine how you would feel if every time you went to fill up you had to pay an extra dollar just for the privilege of using that gasoline. Imagine going to the grocery store and paying a dollar for the privilege of purchasing six oranges from California. Product costs, including infrastructure ones, should be built into the total unit price of the product. Would we agree to pay the grocery store the same fee for purchasing six oranges as we would 12, or pay the same fee to buy 10 litres of gasoline as we do 20? Why then do we agree to pay the same basic charge to FortisBC, regardless of whether we use 600 kWh each billing period versus 1,200?

On a brighter and happier note, the first full day that all eight of our solar panels were functioning was December 16 and we generated 1.9 kWh. At an average daily consumption of 9.26 kWh on the last bill in 2014, that is a potential reduction of 20.5 per cent in the amount of power taken off the grid on a sunny winter day. Unfortunately on December 17 we only generated .4 kWh, but that is the nature of winter weather in the Kootenays. We are now, however, embarking on the second stage of our personal energy conservation journey.

Our consumption of electricity for the billing period ending December 12, 2011 was 10.29 kWh per day; for the period ending December 12, 2012 – 9.87 kWh; ending December 12, 2013 – 9.87 kWh; and ending December 12, 2014 – 9.26 kWh. It will be interesting to see how adding in the eight solar panels further reduces our consumption off the grid.

In 2006 our consumption averaged 17.03 kWh a day. Our personal goal for this winter is to see if we can generate enough solar power to bring our electrical consumption off the grid under 50 per cent of what it was in 2006.

Climate scientists, if I remember correctly, have said that we in the industrialized and “economically advanced” world have to reduce our energy consumption by at least 50 per cent. I realize that my spouse and I may not yet have reduced our fossil fuel footprint by 50 per cent, but we are creating energy space for others to use non-fossil fuel electrical energy.

All the best in 2015. I will report out again in April 2015, possibly as early as the first FortisBC billing period in February.


Andy Shadrack


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