BC Hydro crew at work: the recent cold spell has included wind and ice-related power outages around the province.

BC Hydro offers new winter payment plan

Record high demand during cold snap and the latest increase in rates have pushed up power bills around B.C.

Cold weather has pushed electricity consumption to near-record levels, prompting BC Hydro to offer customers a new payment option to spread the cost over six months.

The winter payment plan averages BC Hydro bills for residential customers from Dec. 1 to March 31. It’s offered to customers who are not on the utility’s existing equal payment plan, which averages bills for the entire year.

Customers can participate in the winter payment plan by calling 1-800-BCHYDRO (1-800-224-9376).

Unusually cold weather in southern B.C. pushed power consumption to a record on Jan. 3, when demand peaked between 5 and 6 p.m. at 10,126 megawatts. That breaks a record set on Nov. 29, 2006, and for Metro Vancouver it is the longest spell of sub-zero weather in about 30 years.

Power bills are pushed up more by the latest BC Hydro rate increase, a four per cent hike that took effect last summer. The B.C. government-mandated rate plan calls for further increases of 3.5 per cent and three per cent in the next two years, after which authority over rates is to be returned to the B.C. Utilities Commission.

NDP energy critic Adrian Dix said the string of rate increases that began in 2013 is one reason why BC Hydro lowered its demand forecast last year. A series of politically driven rate increases totalling 28 per cent has placed an extra hardship on people with the onset of cold weather, he said.

“Any chance you give people to deal with massive rate increases in a cold winter is good,” Dix said. “I have no issue with them doing that. But let’s be clear, it’s a massive rate increase over the last number of years.”