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What remains unclear is how much more they'll have to pay. And who, ultimately, should really be taking responsibility.
B.C. Utilities Commission - Rate Application Process
To get its desired rate increase, BC Hydro must first ask permission of the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC). The commission's role is to ensure that customers of energy providers like BC Hydro and FortisBC receive reliable energy services at fair rates.
A Revenue Requirements Application lays out the case for why BC Hydro needs a 32 per cent rate increase; spread over three years at 9.73 per cent each year.
Accounts vary as to how this will hit customers. Media have reported that rates are going up by 50 per cent over five years; that's true if you consider a 6.11 per cent increase that took effect this year and a 6.95 per cent increase projected for 2015.
The more staggering figure is that BC Hydro expects rates to increase by 100 per cent over ten years. That means a $100 power bill for a single-family home in Whistler will climb to $200 by the year 2021. For Whistler Blackcomb it will mean higher overhead costs to operate ski lifts and heat the Roundhouse.
BC Hydro filed its application in early March and now it will go through policy workshops, evidentiary updates and other matters before a panel of three commissioners decides whether to grant the increase.
Various parties have also registered as intervenors in the application including include COPE 378, a union representing BC Hydro employees, and the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
Like a civil trial, the plaintiff, here represented by BC Hydro, will approach the commissioners and make a case for raising rates by 32 per cent. The defendant, in this case ratepayers like you and me, will see groups like the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre try to convince the commissioners otherwise.
The process is expected to take many months, with oral hearings commencing on October 20, 2011.
Projects Exempted from B.C. Utilities Commission Oversight
- The Northwest Transmission Line - A 287 kilovolt transmission line between the Skeena substation and Bob Quinn Lake, and related facilities and contracts
- (estimated cost: $404 million, with $180 million coming from AltaGas and the B.C. Transmission Corporation; $130 million through the Government of Canada's Green Infrastructure Fund; and $94 million from BC Hydro ratepayers)