Letter: Give us fair electricity pricing

Letter: Give us fair electricity pricing

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(The following letter was written to Michelle Mungall, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.)

We have a 22-year-old energy efficient dwelling with an energy efficient rating of 82.7 out of a possible 83. We are given to understand that you believe that high electric costs are not driving consumers to switch to fossil fuel. We are living proof that you are very mistaken.

When we built this house we had to choose our heating method. We did not want wood as we have a resident with asthma (EPA certified wood heaters were not available at that time). We eliminated gas as it was not available. Oil and propane were also ruled out due to cost.

We chose electricity as it was green and close to the price of gas. According to West Kootenay Power Ltd. on March 10,1995 (now FortisBC ) the annual  average house heating cost for a high efficiency gas furnace was $361.83 and for an air to air heat pump was $427.68. Electric was $65.85 more expensive (18.2 per cent ).

We wish this ratio existed in today’s world! With the new rates electricity no longer is viable as an affordable option. However, we installed our infrastructure to support electric heat as it was then a reasonable option.

We were not alone in coming to the same conclusion. Now all of us are facing extremely high heating costs because government changed the rules and moved the goal posts.

Electric heating customers have always been aware of the higher costs and accordingly have been keenly interested in conservation. When government speaks to conservation , the people who heat with electricity were already out front and leading the parade.

We have heated with an air source heat pump since 1995. Since then we have spent in excess of $25,000 in upgrades to have a high efficiency heat pump, Zone heating, LED and CFL lighting, energy efficient appliances, insulated our duct work, installed an efficient hot water heating system on a timer, installed solar film on the windows, heat only one room at night to livable standards, cook with a toaster oven and microwave to reduce electric consumption and wash clothes only when a sufficient volume has been accumulated and installed low flush toilets.

In the winter we live in one room from 7 pm until 7 am to reduce our energy use.

Mrs. McGinnigle had a stroke on Dec. 20, 2016 and still has serious mobility issues and is constantly cold because of this. We can no longer suffer the low temperatures we have tolerated since two tier pricing went into effect in July of 2012. In this almost five-year journey the price for the second tier went only in one direction, up! Now it is 50 per cent of the tier one rate and too expensive to use for heating. Meanwhile, people who heat with gas (not available to us) purchase their kWH at below the cost of production, while the poor stiffs with electric heat either freeze or pay an exorbitant fee for their basic human comfort.

If you are honest with the electorate you should ban all electric heat, since your government (and that which preceded you) clearly prices electric heat out of affordability. Electric heat is green, but you have pushed us all to want the fossil heat side. We are 75 and 79. We do not have a lot of time left and we will be cold soon enough in the ground. We have now gone fossil. It is hypocritical for your government to preach carbon reduction while pricing green fuel out of existence. Where are the tax incentives to go solar or wind to help take the bite out of the high capital costs? These systems remain too expensive for Mr. and Mrs. average consumer.

Last winter our house was an average of 16.3 C in January and 15 C in February. Had we heated the house to 20 C for 12 hours a day and 17 C at night our cost would have gone up $800. This amount will buy us 3.36 tons of pellets (enough for two seasons) and a daytime temperature of 22 C (a temperature we can only dream of when using electric heat). It’s extra work, but the results are more than worth the effort.

Oh, by the way . . . forget electric cars for us. We cannot reasonably heat our home so why would we want to add any further misery? At least at the gas station we all pay the same price for a litre of fuel. We wish to remind you that no other fuel in B.C. is priced on a tier basis. In fact discounts are available with volume for other heat sources.

In the BC provincial election we advised  both NDP and Liberal candidates that we would not vote for any party that perpetuates the unfair and discriminatory two tier electric pricing policy. Gordon Campbell installed this policy and it has been a disaster for electric heat customers ever since. We thought at first that the effects to electric heat households was unintended and that it would be corrected in time. However, just like the Trump White House you and the Liberals have just doubled down on your support and continue to beat electric heat users to death. You will not listen to reason! I have invited your government and the previous one to talk about this issue. I’m still waiting, as are a legion of other electric users who were hung out to dry with the effects of this policy. Why don’t you talk to real people about the impact of tier pricing on their lives and how this discriminatory practice has caused customers to cringe at the thought of another winter.

We apologize to our neighbours for adding to air pollution in this area. We purchased a stove which the manufacturer states as 91.7 per cent efficient so we have mitigated our choice as much as we could.

We feel sad for those who do not possess the means, either physical or financial, to escape from this two tier hell.

There is no electricity shortage in BC. We export a great deal of power at low wholesale rates to the USA  which should be sold to B.C. users at a single retail rate. This would help electric heat users, provide higher rates of return for providers and ultimately a higher tax revenue for the province. It would even be fair since every customer would pay the same price for the KWH that they use. Your policy is defacto rationing of heat in a climate where this is not an option!

We will continue to work for fair electric pricing in BC and will not go away silently into that good night.

James & Nanene McGinnigle, Oliver

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