The Government of British Columbia and BC Hydro are helping people, small businesses and industries most impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“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.”
BC Hydro will offer new, targeted bill relief to provide immediate help to those most in need.
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.
Major industries, like pulp and paper mills and mines, will have the opportunity to defer 50% of their bill payments for three months.
“People who have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to COVID-19 shouldn’t have to choose between paying their rent or mortgage and paying their hydro bill,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. “These measures will also provide relief to small businesses such as restaurants and retail shops who have had to close during COVID-19, and support them in reopening once the pandemic has passed.”
In addition to this new targeted bill relief, BC Hydro rates will be reduced by 1% on April 1, 2020, after the B.C. Utilities Commission provided interim approval of the application BC Hydro submitted last August. This is the first rate decrease in decades.
“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,” said Chris O’Riley, president and chief executive officer, 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.”
On March 13, 2020, BC Hydro introduced its COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program to provide residential and commercial customers with the option to defer payments or arrange a flexible payment plan to help pay their BC Hydro bills.
Premier Horgan and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Bruce Ralston provide an update to the media on COVID-19 in BC.
— BC Government News (@BCGovNews) April 1, 2020
- The average residential customer’s bill is $159 per month, so the average credit provided will be $477. Some customers may also be eligible for BC Hydro’s existing Customer Crisis Fund, which provides access to grants of up to $600 to pay their bills.
- The average bill savings for small businesses who qualify will be $121 per month, so the average total bill savings will be $363.
- BC Hydro has halted all service disconnections for non-payment during COVID-19 and cancelled all non-emergency planned power outages affecting its customers.
- The Province’s COVID-19 Action Plan includes a new BC Emergency Benefit for Workers that will provide a one-time $1,000 payment to workers whose ability to work has been affected by the outbreak that will add to benefits that are received under federal supports.
- The Government of B.C. is also providing support for businesses through a 50% cut in school property taxes this year and allowing deferrals of a range of tax remittances that complement federal measures like the wage subsidy and interest-free loans.
- For further details on BC Hydro’s response to COVID-19, visit: https://www.bchydro.com/news/conservation/2020/covid-19-updates.html
- For information and supports that are not health-related, call 1 888 COVID19 anytime between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week, or visit: www.gov.bc.ca/COVID19
- For information on the Government of Canada’s response to COVID-19, visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
- For information on the cancellation of non-emergency planned power outages, visit: https://www.bchydro.com/power-outages/app/outage-conditions.html
- For a Punjabi translation: http://news.gov.bc.ca/files/NR-BG_BC-Hydro-COVID-Relief_Punjabi.pdf
- For a French translation: http://news.gov.bc.ca/files/NR-BG_BC-Hydro-COVID-Relief_FR.pdf
- For a Chinese translation: http://news.gov.bc.ca/files/NR-BG_BC-Hydro-COVID-Relief_TCH.pdf
BC Hydro COVID-19 relief measures
The Government of B.C. has worked with BC Hydro to provide relief for residential, small business and industrial customers most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
BC Hydro is working with government and other organizations to simplify customer applications for relief.
While these programs are targeted for customer categories, as described below, to ensure help is going first to those who need it most, any individuals or businesses having difficulty paying their electricity bill are encouraged to call BC Hydro’s customer service team at 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224-9376) to discuss options to defer payments or arrange a flexible payment plan.
To ensure BC Hydro can provide emergency bill relief quickly and effectively government has issued a direction to the B.C. Utilities Commission to approve the programs.
BC Hydro will implement the changes to its systems and websites for customers to access the new programs. Customers will have until June 30, 2020, to apply for relief.
The relief measures will be in place for three months but will be re-evaluated prior to the program’s end date to determine effectiveness and ongoing need.
Residential customers who have lost their jobs, or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19, will receive a bill credit of three times their average monthly bill. The credit does not need to be repaid.
BC Hydro will implement a streamlined application process, requiring customers to provide only proof of job loss or inability to work due to COVID-19.
Residential customers have until June 30, 2020, to apply for bill relief.
Some customers facing temporary financial hardship and possible disconnection of their service due to job loss, illness or loss of a family member may also be eligible for BC Hydro’s existing Customer Crisis Fund, which provides access to grants of up to $600 to pay their bills.
Small business customers:
Businesses with accounts in BC Hydro’s Small General Service rate category that have been forced to close due to COVID-19 will have their power bills forgiven for three months – for electricity used between April and June 2020, with no repayment required.
The Small General Service rate category captures customers that have an annual peak demand less than 35 kilowatts, typically stores, restaurants, tourism operations, the personal services sector and other small businesses.
Businesses with accounts in BC Hydro’s Medium and Large General Service rate categories will still be able to defer their electricity bills without incurring late payment fees under BC Hydro’s existing COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program.
Eligible industrial customers with accounts in BC Hydro’s Transmission Service rate category (rate schedules 1823 and 1828) will have the opportunity to defer 50% of their electricity bill payments for the March 2020 to May 2020 billing period.
B.C.’s major industries have accounts in BC Hydro’s Transmission rate category. These customers use large amounts of energy and represent about 25% of BC Hydro’s domestic electricity load in B.C.
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, 2020.
Copper and coal mines will have the option of deferring 50% of their bill payments for the March 2020 to May 2020 billing period, or deferring up to 75% of their bill payments under the terms of BC Hydro’s Mining Customer Payment Program (MCPP) – whichever offers the greatest benefit. Repayment would commence according to a prescribed payment plan of nine months of equal payments with the first payment due on April 12, 2021.
- The MCPP allows operating mines to defer up to 75% of their electricity bill payments when the market price of copper or coal drops below a certain threshold. The market price for both copper and coal was above the threshold in March 2020, but may drop below the threshold in April or May.
- Major mines not currently part of the MCPP will be given the opportunity to join.
BC Hydro has committed to reducing the demand charge that makes up a portion of an industrial customer’s electricity bill.
- The demand charge is based on an industrial customer’s single highest use of energy during a specified period of time and reflects the cost for BC Hydro to have the resources and capacity to serve a customer’s highest demand.
- For the March 2020 to May 2020 billing period, the demand charge will be based on a customer’s average electricity use, rather than its highest use. Reducing the demand charge is expected to provide significant savings for each customer.
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