Hydro Clients face ‘green’ surcharge
Times Colonist, Page 3, Feb 12, 2007
Jeff Rud and Lindsay Kines, Times Colonist
Government wants small increase on utility bills
to help fuel new Innovative Clean Energy Fund
British Columbians will be paying for one of the provincial governmentâ€™s new climate-change initiatives through an increase on their utility bills.
Energy Minister Richard Neufeld and Finance Minister Carole Taylor confirmed yesterday that they plan to use a surcharge on B.C. consumersâ€™ power and natural gas bills to fuel the $25-million Innovative Clean Energy Fund announced in last weekâ€™s throne speech.
The â€œICEâ€ fund will encourage the commercialization of alternative energy solutions and help find â€œnew solutions for clean remote energy that can solve many challenges we face right here in B.C.,â€™â€™ according to the speech.
Taylor revealed on budget day that Neufeld was considering the use of such a surcharge to supply the fund.
Neufeld said the government will have to ask the B.C. Utilities Commission for approval to apply the surcharge.
â€œThis is something that weâ€™ll put out in the energy plan,â€ Neufeld said.
â€œI can tell you that it would be less than one per cent on domestic consumersâ€™ utility bills.â€™â€™
Hydro customers are also facing a potential rise in power rates next year. Provincial budget documents show that B.C. Hydro is basing its plans on a 5.86 per cent rate increase for 2008-09, although that will also have to go before the utilities commission.
The ICE surcharge would apply to B.C. Hydro and Terasen Gas bills. It would also be applied to bills from Fortis and PNG, other energy companies that serve B.C.
The Innovative Clean Energy Fund did not appear in Tuesdayâ€™s budget, but Taylor said it would be initiated this year as part of governmentâ€™s new energy plan, which is expected to be unveiled during the next few weeks.
NDP energy critic John Horgan said the news raises questions about whether this is a fund or a tax.
â€œI think it speaks to the lack of planning and preparation,â€™â€™ Horgan said. â€œThe premier went away [on vacation], read a couple of books, came back, and the government is turned on its heels. They donâ€™t have a plan. And weâ€™re forced to wait and speculate on what their real intentions are with respect to revenue generation and Hydro policy.â€™â€™
The utilities commission is an independent body and might not approve the surcharge, Horgan said.
â€œIf thatâ€™s the case, then itâ€™s not a done deal and we have a throne speech that was hastily put together, that promised the world for those who are concerned about the environment and is delivering very little.â€™â€™
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