B.C. residents and businesses get break on electricity bills for three months

VICTORIA — People who have lost their jobs or had their wages cut will get a three-month break on BC Hydro bills, while small businesses are also eligible to apply for similar relief.

Premier John Horgan said Wednesday the credit for residential customers will be three times a household's average monthly bill over the past year and does not have to be repaid as part of the government's support package during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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He said small businesses that are closed will not have to pay their power bills for three months and large industrial customers, including those operating mines and pulp mills, can opt to have 50 per cent of their electricity costs deferred.

BC Hydro rates will be cut for all customers by one per cent as of April 1 after the B.C. Utilities Commission provided interim approval of an application the utility submitted last August.

Eligible residential customers can apply for bill relief starting next week and small business applications will be accepted as of April 14, with the deadline for both categories set at June 30.

Energy Minister Bruce Ralston said the three-month break also applies to those who are in quarantine or are caring for young children, with the average savings over three months expected to be about $477.

"In fact, during the summer, since many people's bill tends to decline, the credit may carry someone a little bit further than three months," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"We are working with BC Hydro to make sure there is a simple and streamlined process for customers to apply for relief so we can implement these new measures as soon and as effectively as is possible. But we wanted to let people know more relief is coming."

Large industries deferring 50 per cent of their bills will be required to make their first repayment in September.

Ralston said the cost to BC Hydro to provide relief for residential and small-business customers is up to $90 million.

Horgan said the province is co-ordinating these temporary support programs with the federal government.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2020.

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