Island residents could see gas bill decrease

NANAIMO – The B.C. Utilities Commission recently approved an application for consolidation of three natural gas utilities

Fortis B.C. natural gas customers in Nanaimo and on Vancouver Island could see a sizable decrease on their bills beginning 2015.

The B.C. Utilities Commission recently approved the energy company’s application for consolidation of its three natural gas utilities – Fortis B.C. Energy (Vancouver Island) Inc., Fortis B.C. Energy (Whistler) Inc. and Fortis B.C. Energy Inc. – and provision of a common rate structure for most its natural gas customers.

The application is currently pending consent from the lieutenant governor in council and could lead to Island residents seeing a decrease of approximately 25 per cent over the next three years and commercial customers seeing anywhere from a 30 to 45 per cent reduction.

Carol Greaves, Fortis’ community relations manager, said the company amalgamated the utilities in the best interests of its customers. Vancouver Island is a younger utility, with natural gas having only been available since 1991, and the cost to serve a younger utility is higher and the customer base is yet to be built out and the infrastructure is still relatively new, she said.

“With amalgamation, we will bring our three utilities together, and the costs of service will be spread amongst all customers then,” said Greaves.

She said the company hasn’t determined a decrease schedule yet but once the full discount is in effect in 2018, the average savings for residents is estimated to be $215 a year. Greaves said the decrease for commercial customers will be dependent on their commercial category rate and is based on annual load.

“The amalgamation will be effective January 1, 2015, and then there’s a three-year phase in for the rate decreases,” said Greaves. “We don’t know what percentages per year at this stage.”

While decreases could be coming for the Island, Powell River and the Sunshine Coast next year, there will be increases for areas such as the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, the Interior and northern parts of B.C., Whistler as well as the Kootenays that take effect April 1.