Dave Cobb is president and CEO of BC Hydro.

Electricity users in for regular rate jolts

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Expect to see your household’s monthly electricity bill climb $7 in each of the next three years.

BC Hydro is now projecting a series of rate increases that will raise a typical monthly residential bill by $21 – a nearly 30 per cent jump from $71 to $92 – by 2013.

The Crown corporation needs to raise $6 billion to upgrade aging power stations, transmission lines and the Vancouver city centre transmission system.

“To pay for these much-needed projects, we need to increase rates, while still looking at every way to keep them among the lowest in North America,” BC Hydro president and CEO Dave Cobb said in a statement Dec. 2.

The planned hikes mean a typical home will pay about $250 more in 2013 than it did this year.

B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre executive director Jim Quail said the rate increases are likely to continue indefinitely, with electricity bills doubling about every eight years.

“There’s no end in sight,” he said. “A number of their projections are probably optimistic. We think If anything it’s conservative.”

The much higher cost of modern power infrastructure compared to the dams built in the 1960s is the main reason.

But Quail also blames policy decisions like buying higher priced “clean” electricity from run-of-river power plants and the move to install smart meters in every home, which he predicts will be a billion-dollar boondoggle rather than an investment paying off in conservation.

For now, Hydro customers may see some short-term rate relief.

The utility had raised rates 9.3 per cent on an interim basis last April, but regulators at the B.C. Utilities Commission have ruled only a 7.29 per cent increase was justified. Customers should get the difference refunded in early 2011.

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