The latest proposed rate increase by Whistlers only piped-propane provider is inevitable, says a local resident who has been closely following the energy issue.
"Its like a loan," Tim Wake told Pique Newsmagazine . "What we dont pay for now, we will be paying for later."
Centra Gas has applied to the British Columbia Utilities Commission to raise rates by 20.5 per cent, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2001.
According to Wake, who works for the Whistler Housing Authority and is acting on behalf of the community as an intervenor in the rate increase application, the only way to get out of paying higher propane prices is if the cost drops.
But Lisa Landry, the Resort Municipality of Whistlers manager of fiscal planning, said that is not likely to happen in the near future.
"Prices are going to continue to rise," she said, noting that energy prices are not set locally but are influenced by the demands of the global market.
Landry, who is also acting as an intervenor in Centras application process, said she is appealing to the BCUC to set the new rates this June, not retroactively.
"Its hard to get money now for what happened in January," she said.
If the latest increase is approved, propane rates in Whistler will have skyrocketed by 73 per cent since January 2000.
During a pre-hearing workshop on May 25, Centra spokesperson Tim Madsen told the BCUC the rate increase is due to the rising cost of propane from suppliers and system improvements to meet growing customer demand.
Madsen said wholesale propane prices jumped by almost 50 per cent from November 2000 to January 2001. The Victoria-based propane supplier also made $2.2 million worth of infrastructure improvements in Whistler last year.
Centra plans to add two new storage tanks in Function Junction this summer and is currently working on plans to build a natural gas pipeline from Squamish to meet Whistlers long-term energy needs.
According to Landry, Whistler residents need to learn how to reduce their energy consumption during peak times, thus reducing the need for infrastructure improvements.
"That way the improvements can be taken out of the rate calculation until they are actually built," she said.
Wake agreed with Landrys assessment and said there could be a silver lining to the proposed increase. "Higher prices provide a strong incentive and an excellent opportunity to learn how to use energy more wisely," he said.
Centra Gas has a booklet on how to conserve energy called "Hot Tips" available to customers. Check out www.centragas.com or call 1-800-667-6064 for more information.