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LETTER: Proposed rural Nelson Hydro rate increase is not fair

From reader Tracey Fellowes

Re: Recent Windstorm cost Nelson Hydro almost $400,000, Feb. 18

City council appears surprised at the cost of climate change induced storms. Rural Nelson Hydro customers certainly are shocked at the proposed 28 per cent rate increase by 2024 (with general and rural rate increases compounding on each other annually) which is three times higher than proposed rate increases for customers in the city.

Cost increases claimed by Nelson Hydro are the result of poor vegetation management leaving it unprepared to deal with increased storms despite repeated warnings, and the decision to allocate purchased power to rural customers. Due to population growth Nelson Hydro can no longer generate enough power and must buy it wholesale. There is no explanation for the reason these costs are allocated only to rural customers, but I note that rural customers cannot vote for city council who set the city rates. We can guess what city voters would do at the ballot box with a 28 per cent increase.

Over four years, Nelson Hydro generated $6 to $7 million in net revenue after operating costs versus $4 to $5 million previously. Total operating costs increased 1.5 per cent while gross revenue increased three per cent. There are no losses. Profits at Nelson Hydro fund the dividend that pays for city projects. Rural customers have contributed to the Nelson Hydro dividend, water, capital, and operating expenses since 1992.

The city manager likens the hinterland “out there” to a cost centre for which the city and Nelson Hydro have kindly decided to “do the right thing.” Charging three times the city rate for unreliable rural service is neither “the right thing,” nor is it consistent with the postage stamp concept of one rate for provision of electricity regardless of location throughout BC and Canada.

I urge Nelson Hydro rural customers to express their concerns prior to March 4 via letter to the BC Utilities Commission

Tracey Fellowes

Longbeach

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