By JAMES MILLER
Food or utilities: that’s the choice many residents in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen have to make in the wake of a two-tiered conservation rate that has the RDOS Board demanding action.
RDOS directors voted unanimously Thursday to send a letter to Premier Christy Clark, the B.C. Utilities Commission and the opposition parties supporting the removal of the two-tiered conservation rate entrenched in the Fortis rate order and, on a provincial level, BC Hydro.
“The people that earn the biggest profits shouldn’t be the utility companies if people are suffering who are on pensions or limited incomes or unemployed. There has to be a fairer structure or pricing,” Area D (Okanagan Falls-Kaleden) director Tom Siddon said in an interview.
When the conservation rate was installed in 2012, it reduced the price for electricity use below 1,600 kilowatt-hours per billing period, but increased the cost for any power used over and above that threshold.
The change has greatly impacted those who have no choice but to heat their homes using electricity and regularly exceed the threshold during the winter.
“There’s very poor insulation in these old log houses or tin-built houses. People were getting bills for $1,000 or more in February and they had to choose between buying groceries or paying Fortis.”
Upgrading their homes and providing better insulation, replacing drafty windows and having a better building envelope are possible, Mr. Siddon said, but many living in older homes can’t afford $10,000 for an upgrade.
“People who can least afford it are being hosed by this conservation rate structure and the B.C. Utilities Commission absolutely insists on doing what they’ve been instructed to do by the provincial government — who appoints them all — which in turn makes more profit for Fortis and BC Hydro.”
The RDOS has taken an active role on this issue for the past four years even bringing it up at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and Federation of Canadian Municipalities conventions.