Help shape your future electricity rates
The way British Columbians use electricity is changing, and it's time for us to review how we determine your electricity rates.
We’re undertaking an engagement process where you'll have opportunities to give us feedback as we explore options for what residential electricity rates could look like in the future.
We want to make sure that you're charged for electricity use in a way that:
- Keeps your electricity costs affordable.
- Reflects the changing environmental and technological landscape.
- Is fair to you and all customers.
Your input will help inform the application we submit to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) early next year, in which we'll propose our approach for how you’ll be charged for electricity use in the future.
Phase 1: What we heard from you
Between April and June 2021, we asked about how you use electricity and what’s important to you when it comes to the cost of electricity. We heard from more than 25,000 British Columbians through online surveys, virtual workshops, a telephone town hall, and smaller engagement sessions with Indigenous Nations and key stakeholder groups.
Your input told us your two key priorities when it comes to future rate options are:
- Ensuring your electricity bill remains affordable and low.
- Continuing to have reliable access to electricity.
Here’s a deeper dive into what we heard in Phase 1:
Your current rate structure
Since 2008, you've been charged for your electricity use according to the Residential Conservation Rate. In this approach, you're charged one rate (~9¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh)) for electricity up to a certain threshold (Step 1) in each billing period, and a higher rate (~14¢ per kWh) for all electricity use beyond that threshold (Step 2). This is known as a "stepped rate structure."
We found through Phase 1 that there are differing views on what should be done with this stepped rate structure going forward:
- Those who often go into Step 2 because they have higher electricity use want to see this structure changed and instead be charged the same rate for each kilowatt hour of electricity they use, no matter how much. This rate structure is often referred to as a ‘flat rate’.
- On the other hand, those who have lower electricity use and don’t go into the higher Step 2 rate told us they’d prefer that we continue with the current stepped structure.
- We also heard from some that want to see us increase the Step 2 electricity use threshold, or add additional 'steps' within this rate structure.
We’ll continue to explore what to do with the Residential Conservation Rate going forward as part of our Phase 2 engagement and ask for your input.
New optional rates
In Phase 1, we asked you to provide initial input on new potential optional rates, including:
- Seasonal rates: The price for electricity would vary depending on the time of year. For example, you’d be charged a higher rate in the winter when demand for electricity is higher, and a lower rate in the summer when demand is lower.
- Personalized plan: Like selecting a phone plan that suits your needs, this option would allow you to add features based on how you use electricity.
- Specific-use rates: This option would allow you to opt-in for a rate for a specific use, like charging an electric vehicle or heating and cooling your home with a heat pump.
- Time-of-use rate: This option would charge a different rate depending on when you use electricity. For example, you could be charged a lower rate for electricity used overnight, and a higher rate at certain times of the day when electricity demand in the province is highest.
Of these options, an optional time-of-use rate received the most support. We’ll provide more information on what an optional time-of-use rate could look like in Phase 2 and ask for your feedback.
Affordability and keeping bills lows
Affordability, which the majority of those surveyed defined as their ability to pay for things based on their income, is an important priority for you as we move forward. While some of you expressed interest in a new rate structure, you don’t want your bills to go up as a result of any change.
We also heard that you want to ensure that all British Columbians have access to reliable electricity, regardless of income.
Phase 2: November 2021
In this phase, we'll give you more details about potential new options for how we determine your electricity costs. You'll have an opportunity to provide feedback and let us know what you think about the different options.
BC Utilities Commission Application (spring 2022)
In early 2022, we'll submit an application to the BCUC and also post it here on our website to keep you informed. In the application, we'll outline our proposed approach for how you'll be charged for electricity use in the future.
The BCUC will review the application and determine next steps. We'll keep you informed throughout the process so you know what the status is.
Any changes we make to your residential electricity rates will need to be approved by the BCUC.
We introduced the Residential Conservation Rate in 2008 to encourage our customers to conserve electricity, but a lot has changed since then. For example, more of us are:
- Using smart technologies in our homes.
- Making energy-conscious decisions to reduce our costs, support energy conservation, and address climate change.
- Buying and charging electric vehicles at home.
- Switching to clean electricity from fossil fuels to reduce our carbon footprint.
The approach we've been using may not work best for these new technologies and behaviours. That's why we're exploring new approaches, while also ensuring fairness for all customers.