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Central Okanagan  

Electrical bill shocker

Update 2 p.m.: We are adding updates at the bottom of the story from more of our readers who have had huge increases in their electricity bills. The latest responses will be at the top of the list.


Hundreds of people around the Okanagan are hot under the collar after seeing their latest electrical bill.

Many contacted Castanet News Thursday afternoon voicing their dissatisfaction and frustration over energy bills that are, in some instances, nearly twice what they were a year ago.

Many residential bills increased this year after the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) which oversees energy providers such as BC Hydro and FortisBC, asked providers to design a 'Conservation Rate.'

Neal Proban, Corporate Communications Advisor with FortisBC says the result was a two tier billing system.

"Tier one is up to 1,600 kilowatt hours every two months and tier two takes over after 1,600 kilowatt hours," says Proban.

"The reason behind that is because they (BCUC) wanted to find a way for residential customers to get an incentive if they saved electricity. By charging customers a lower rate they can actually save money."

The problem? People using more energy than 1600 kw/h per month, are paying more - a lot more. Not one person reported to Castanet that they were saving money even though they have gone to extremes to cut power consumption. 

"Customers in tier one or, block one as we call it, the first 1,600 kw/h get charged 8.8038 cents and in block two it goes to 12.952 cents."

Mike Hlushko is one who is feeling the affects despite installing what he thought would be an energy saving, environmentally friendly Geo-Thermal system in the house he had built in 2005.

Hlushko says his electrical bill went from the $700 range a year ago to his latest bill $924.68.

"We thought we were doing the right thing and we're conscious about what we use," says Hlushklo.

"But, if you look at these bills from the last few years, its definitely put a dent in the extra money we're going to have every month if they keep using this system."

Hlushko says he's stuck because the Geo-Thermal system runs on electricity, he doesn't use natural gas.

"There's no other way we can save money in our home. We do turn lights off, we're very energy conscious."

Ironically, Hlushko says his Geo -Thermal system was down for two months last winter. His energy bill then was about $800 because they were on a back-up heat system.

"We used less power this year than last and, if you look at the numbers it was less money, but way more power usage exactly a year ago."

Proban says the rate structure is all about conservation.

"Our average customer uses between 2,100 and 2,500 kwh so their bill will stay about the same or drop a little bit. Anybody who is able to use under 1,600 is rewarded with the better rate. If they go above they will be charged more," says Proban.

Unfortunately, the utility company is not able to determine a profile of just what the average user looks like.

He adds that customers will probably notice an increase in the winter since that's when we tend to use more power, but a decrease in the summertime when consumption tends to dip below the 1,600 kwh threshold.

Despite the rationale dozens of people who emailed Castanet were not pleased with the bottom line.

I have all of my yearly totals of energy bills since 2003.  We now pay $1300 more per year (accumulative during the past many years) that works out to just over $100/month, and we have cut our winter usage by aprrox. 2000kwh per billing cycle (approx.62 days) accumulative with upgrades and energy saving measures during the past many years. This really does not make sense….wages have not increased very much at all in the Okanagan since 2003 from what I have experienced, but the cost of living has been increasing steadily and it is getting a little hard to budget for basic needs such as heating your home.

Rachel Pike

I brought this to the attention of my Facebook friends a month ago and was shocked at how everyone's reaction was the same.  I live in a townhouse and am not home all day and my bill went from $175 to $400 in January then from $175 to $375 the next month...UNREAL!  Everyone that commented on Facebook went as high as an increase to $1000 more a month...I even have a friend who was in Italy the whole month (not at home) and hers doubled the month she was away. Because quite frankly Fortis BC can be scamming us all with their new "Save Energy" outlook....?  Post it on Facebook...you will get a few replies as well...

Angel Syrette

I am writing this letter to complain and ask for an explanation about my Hydro bill. As you can see from the attached bill's my Hydro bill has RISEN by 50% over the same period last year. Now bearing in mind that my wife and I live in a home that is 541 sq. feet and we have done exactly the same this year as we did last year. Using the same Oil filled Heaters at the same settings. Yes you can say that the cost of electricity has risen 50% thanks to the BCUC, but considering the winter was no where near as cold as it was last winter FortisBC say that I used an average of 30% more electricity than last year. We do not even use electricity for cooking as we use propane so there is no wastage there. Our electric fireplace was hardly used as it was not required. When my wife does laundry she will only use cold water and we have NO dryer. This is beyond belief.

Les Kennard, Keremeos

My electrical bill has doubled since they put in the smart meter, where as they said it would not make a difference. What a rip off.

Archie H.

This is a major political issue as far as I'm concerned. Like so many others when I got my latest bill I nearly fell off my chair. Why on earth the government allowed the Utilities Commission to pass such a crooked rate structure needs to be answered. Note to that at least with Fortis (and perhaps also BC Hydro) the Tier 2 rates have increased *faster* than the Tier 1 rates. This means the new system gets progressively more unfair as time passes. Incredible.

Nicholas Swart 

Single person living in a townhouse that is under 1000 feet. Work 2 jobs, never home, turns all lights off when away. Doesn’t use the dishwasher. Does laundry once a week, Heat is set between 15-20 degrees all winter. It is electric heat. Last Hydro bill 304.38 !! Ludicrous for a single person using minimum heat water and lighting.

L. Thomas

I have seen my bill go from $38-46 every two months to over $260 for 38 days.  I only have two rooms plus a bathroom and have EVERYTHING that is not being used unplugged all the time now. My neighbour has a larger home and his monthly hydro bill was over $900.  A small increase I can understand but these seem to be an extraordinary amounts.

Fly600girl

My highest bill in the last 8 years has been $670.00 a couple of years ago when we had a cold winter. My last bill was $875.00 for 2 months. It has not even been a cold winter and I have been much more  conscious the last couple of years when it comes to lights and hot water and power. We are absolutely being ripped off by Fortis. This is one of the biggest scams I have come across in years.

Wayne Deleurme

My home is a 2200 square foot home and I am trying to be very conservative with my elecrtiticy and my bill has gone up over 200 dollars from last year same time and my actual consumpiton on furance is down 40%. I had an independent come in to do an energy smart tesl and I am above the average on efficiency.

Krista Berrigan

I have a huge problem with this two tiered system.  My personal residence Electric bill has increased appx $200 to $300 a billing period.  Summer months are worse with AC running, on average I have a $350 increase over two months.  Not very happy about it at all.  My Bill used to be $300 to $350 and now it has gotten up as high as $650 one billing period. The largest problem is we have a rental on Big White.  There is no gas furnaces on Big White so with Electric base board heaters the bill has increased from $550 every two months to as high as $1,134.  This one was the largest shock.

Kyle Jones

Wow. Just Wow. Bill this month… $487! Last year - $285 – that is a 70% increase!!!

Cory Davidson

Upon receiving our Fortis electrical bill  of $375.53. We were astounded to see that we were paying $180.32  more than the last bill. That is almost double. We are not using our furnace this year and are being careful in our consumption.  There is no explanation about the huge raise except to say the rate has changed.  The average current kWh/day is 49 compared to past year of 54 Kwh/day.
 
Herb and Clare
 
My bill was $600 for 2 months. My heat is never above 21 degrees and lights are always switched off. Disgusted. Apparently downstairs was close to $1000. I have never paid more than $150 for 2 months and i live exactly the same way. Of course when i phoned to complain they were less than helpful and basically told tough and to pay. It's terrible to see this happening to everyone.
 
Dave
 
Normally for the winter months our bill is about $220 for 2 months, this last bill was $320!  All because of this new two-tiered system.
 
Sarah Lambert
 
We are really angry – we were away a total of 5 weeks during the last billing period so there was no laundry, no baking, no lights  – nothing going on – and we set the thermostat at 65 degrees. We had an 8% reduction of kwh usage and a 14 % increase in the bill for the same period as last year!
 
Joyce Findlay
 
Here are bills sent to us from a reader (not Joyce Findlay) who lives in Joe Rich.

With files from Jen Zielinskli

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