Hydro crisis fund continues, BCUC notwithstanding
A crisis fund that has helped keep the power on for 10,000 households struggling to pay BC Hydro bills will continue despite a BC Utilities Commission panel ruling that the program should end, The Tyee is reporting.
“We’ll have something before the end of May,” said Bruce Ralston, B.C.’s minister of energy, mines and low carbon innovation. “It will continue. We haven’t decided on a mechanism.”
Under BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund program, which started in 2018 as a three-year pilot project, a household facing disconnection can apply for a grant if they can’t pay their bill due to a temporary financial crisis such as a job loss, unexpected medical expense or death in the family.
The utility covered the expense by charging all customers 25 cents a month, an amount that has since been reduced to 13 cents.
On May 7, the BCUC ruled the program should stop at the end of May when the pilot program is over since it didn’t save the utility money and therefore didn’t benefit all ratepayers.
“The CCF Pilot Program cannot be justified on an economic or cost-of-service basis,” the review panel found, though it acknowledged the broad public support for the program and recognized the positive impact on people who had received grants.
A BC Hydro spokesperson said that aside from the Customer Crisis Fund there are various interest-free, flexible payment options available. “We want to remind any customer that is struggling to pay their bill to reach out to our customer team,” Mora Scott said in an email.
BC Hydro knows the importance of the crisis fund and is working with the government on other ways to help customers in need, Scott said. “In the meantime, we encourage eligible customers to get their application in for the fund by May 31.”