If hydro rates are set to increase drastically, as suggested in a report leaked last week, Nanaimo residents and businesses could be looking at hefty hikes.
According to the internal report, written for B.C. Hydro's Rates Working Group, hydro customers - from residential users to small business owners and industrial operations - face a 26.4 per cent increase in the rate of electricity from 2014 to 2016.
Dated Aug. 23, the report was obtained by the Vancouver Sun from the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE Local 378).
The union represents 1,900 workers at B.C. Hydro.
Even a 10 per cent rate increase would mean an additional $105 a year for the average residential customer, while small commercial customers would pay an average of $240 more per year, according to the document.
The City of Nanaimo spends approximately $2 million a year on electricity alone, which could mean an increase of more than $520,000 to taxpayers.
"Whatever happens is something we have to accept. We're not a player, we don't have any bargaining rights," said Bruce Joiner, energy manager for the city, who added that the document is "not an official release from B.C. Hydro."
The Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district currently spends approximately $900,000 a year on electricity, which could mean tacking on an additional $237,600 to the already strained school budget.The district said they have not yet analyzed the impact of any potential increase to bills, but currently "have initiatives underway to reduce our electricity consumption, including retrofitting lighting fixtures," said district spokeswoman Donna Reimer via email.
The impact of rate increases is felt more significantly by customers on a fixed income, Hydro also noted in the document.
"There's a concern any time there is an impact on people's ability to purchase food," said Peter Sinclair, executive director of Loaves and Fishes.
Paul Sadler, CEO of Nanaimo Harmac's pulp mill, said the mill spends "hundreds of thousands" of dollars each month to cover its energy costs.
He said that while the mill's new $45-million electrical generation plant will help offset some energy costs, Harmac will still be watching B.C. Hydro's moves to raise rates closely.
Harmac and B.C. Hydro signed a 15-year agreement last year that will see the mill sell approximately 15 megawatts from the new 25-megawatt plant electrical generation to the Crown corporation, while using the rest to help meet the mill's power demands.
"Clearly, organizations like the B.C. Utilities Commission and other agencies that represent forest companies will be monitoring B.C. Hydro's plans, and so will we," Sadler said.
Higher prices for residential customers may also be a catalyst to push for energy conservation, said Ian Gartshore, who performs energy audits with his company Shore Energy Solutions.
"What about the poor? It's a good argument, right? The NDP and the Liberals both call that card," said Gartshore.
"What they're doing is actually making it worse for everybody, including the poor, (by) holding the line on energy cost price increases, because the more the price of electricity goes up, the more people conserve."
Conservation helps prevent new infrastructure costs, which also keeps rates down, said Gartshore.
Joiner said he also could foresee higher rates pushing conservation measures forward. Figures were not available for how rate increases would affect B.C. Ferries, but the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital said their electricity expenses last year were approximately $860,000.
Earlier this month hospital administration released a statement announcing they are currently seeking to implement a sustainable thermal energy source at both Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria.
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