VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – B.C. Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday that BC Hydro is offering bill relief for customers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hydro is offering a three-month credit for individual customers, as well as three-month payment holiday for small businesses and 50-per-cent payment deferral for larger industrial customers for the same time period.
Hydro also reduced rates by one per cent, as of April 1, following interim approval by the B.C. Utilities Commission of an application submitted last August.
It is the first rate decrease in decades, according to the province.
The updated rate means most residential users will save about $16 a year, while commercial users will save $715 annually, and industrial customers up to $230,000.
As for the credit, it will save the average residential customer $477 over three months. For small businesses, the total credit will be $363.
“We are facing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. People are out of work, and businesses are facing tough choices about whether they can stay open,” said Premier John Horgan. “Giving people relief on their power bills lets them focus on the essentials, while helping businesses and encouraging critical industry to keep operating.”
Premier @jjhorgan and Energy, Mines Min @BruceRalston talking @bchydro for people and businesses in a little over an hour.
This up on the Hydro site now.
Rates now down a percent.#bcpoli @NEWS1130 #covid19 pic.twitter.com/ppx3mPeKn7
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) April 1, 2020
Residential customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19 will receive a credit to help cover the cost of their electricity bills. The credit will be three times their average monthly bill over the past year at their home and does not have to be repaid.
Small businesses that have been forced to close due to COVID-19 will have their power bills forgiven for three months.
BC Hydro is waiving bills for these customers from April to June 2020.
“So that when the crisis passes, you’ll be in a better position to start up right away,” Horgan said.
Major industries, like pulp and paper mills and mines, will have the opportunity to defer 50 per cent of their bill payments for three months.
Industrial customers will pay interest on deferred amounts, with repayment to occur according to a prescribed plan that requires nine months of equal payments with the first payment due on Sept. 1, says a government release.
“We recognize the financial stress many of our customers are facing after losing their job or having to close their business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Chris O’Riley, president and chief executive officer of BC Hydro. “We hope that not having to worry about their electricity costs for a few months will help provide some temporary relief during these challenging times.”
BC Hydro has halted all service disconnections for non-payment during the COVID-19 pandemic and cancelled all non-emergency planned power outages affecting customers.