BC Hydro is offering a three-month bill credit for residential customers and small businesses who have lost work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ability of mines, mills and other industrial users to defer half their bills for three months.
Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Bruce Ralston announced the measures April 1, providing it to individuals who have lost their jobs or have reduced income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The fund will provide three months of relief on individual accounts, and unlike other B.C. coronavirus support programs it doesn’t require people to qualify for federal Employment Insurance, Ralston said.
The individual relief will appear as a credit on residential bills, amounting to three times the average power bill for the past year, and it does not have to be repaid. Based on the average BC Hydro residential bill, the benefit would amount to $477.
Small businesses that have had to close due to COVID-19 will have a three-month “payment holiday,” from their BC Hydro costs, with applications to be available by April 14, Ralston said. Bills will be waived for April, May and June under the new program. Large industrial users of electricity can defer up to half of their bills for a three-month period, with applications open until June 30 for the business relief.
“We know that people are losing their jobs, shuttering their stores and restaurants, and in some cases may be on the brink of curtailing operations at mines, mills and plants,” Ralston said.
Horgan also announced that the B.C. Utilities Commission has approved a one per cent rate cut for BC Hydro, effective April 1, which he called the first reduction in decades after years of mounting debt and major work on the province’s network of dams.
The new program is different from BC Hydro’s “customer crisis fund,” established in 2018, that has provided access to grants of up to $600 for customers. It is funded by a monthly charge of approximately 25 cents per month added to residential hydro bills.