B.C. Hydro rates should be lowered for low-income customers, says advocate
Similar programs are already in place in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba
A legal advocacy group in Vancouver is asking the B.C. Utilities Commission to help make electricity more affordable for low-income people.
Of B.C. Hydro's 1.7 million residential customers, 10 per cent are considered low income — and many of them have trouble paying their electricity bill, according to the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
"We've heard a lot of stories of people facing disconnections, having difficulty paying arrears, and having just long-standing problems paying their bills," said Sarah Khan, a lawyer with the centre.
The advocate is asking the B.C. Utilities Commission, the provincial agency that regulates energy services, to implement an electricity affordability program at B.C. Hydro.
Currently, B.C. Hydro has programs that provide energy-saving products and tips for low-income residents, but Khan says more needs to be done.
She wants to see an emergency bill assistance program for those facing disconnection, and more flexible payment options for those behind on their bill.
Khan said similar programs are already in place in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.
"Ontario is in the process of implementing quite a wide range of low income energy affordability programs," said Khan.
"They've already got low income terms and conditions and already have some bill assistance programs, and they're just in the process of expanding that."
With files from Bal Brach