Nelson Hydro increases rates for 2016; solar garden fees set
Add another increase to the rising tax bill for Nelson taxpayers.
On Monday night city council officially approved a general rate increase of 3.8 per cent to all Nelson Hydro electricity rates, including the Nelson wholesale and FortisBC residential rates.
This is added to a 1.75 per cent property tax increase for 2016, along with a three per cent increase ($15 annual increase) in water rates per home, as well as two per cent ($10 annual increase) in sanitary sewer rates.
At its Jan. 18 special meeting council was provided with background information on the 2016 electrical rate changes prior to completion of the new financial plan.
The electrical utility rate increase is required due to increases in Nelson Hydro’s operating costs, including increases in power purchase costs from its supplier FortisBC, an increase that was approved earlier in January.
Council had given first three readings to the Electrical Utility Amendment (2016 Hydro Rates) Bylaw in mid January. At that stage the proposed increase went to the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) for review — all amendments to rates require BCUC review and approval, especially when rate increases are for rural customers.
Prior to adoption, the increase was approved on Feb. 26 by the BCUC for all customers.
Nelson Hydro also asked for and received an approval for time to communicate the rate changes to customers prior to the rates becoming effecting in April.
In January 2016, FortisBC implemented an interim general rate increase of 3.12 per cent to all rates including the Nelson Wholesale and FortisBC residential rates.
“After the 2016 rate increases, Nelson Hydro will continue to have the lowest residential rates of FortisBC and the other Municipal hydro utilities,” said Jo Caldecott in a report to city council.
The basic monthly charge for urban customers will be $ 34.35, while the basic monthly charge for rural customers will be $35.40.
Not including the new per month power rate increase, the city’s residential taxpayers will pay an average increase of $51 to the city — rising from $2,557 (2015 actual) to $2,608 (2016 proposed).
Businesses in the city — which make up 25 per cent of the tax role — will see an average increase of $236 per year. Based on a $1 million assessed value commercial restaurant, taxes rise from $12,169 (2015 actual) to $12,404 (2016 proposed).
The increase does not include possible tax increases assessed by the regional district, the health region, the board of education and the province that the city also collects for.
The tax increase could jump even further if the city is on the hook for a Nelson Police Department (NPD) budget increase, which would bump the increase by an added four per cent.
The police department asked for an increase of $310,000 for 2016 — for two new officers and an administrative staff person — and the final decision from the provincial director of police services has been delivered, but the result has not been released.
Solar garden fees approved
Nelson Hydro also received approval for its solar garden fees and charges, which are based on full cost recovery.
After receiving first three readings by city council, the proposed fees were submitted to the BCUC for approval in January, 2016. Accordingly, BCUC has approved the fees.
At the June 15, 2015 committee of the whole meeting Nelson Hydro staff presented the Community Solar Garden project plan to council.
At the Nov. 16 special meeting council authorized the Bonnington Generating Station lands as the site for the solar garden and approved the start of pre-sales from Nov. 17 to Dec. 15.
The city’s EcoSave program coordinator, Carmen Proctor, confirmed in December that the pre-sale phase had sold 210 panels by the time it closed Dec. 17, which meant the 50 kilowatt array was sold out.
Proctor said 240 panels would “fully utilize” the one site at the Bonnington location.
The city’s Bonnington Generating Station lands were chosen as the solar garden site, where Nelson Hydro currently generates hydro electricity.
In November Nelson Hydro general manager Alex Love said the highest cost to each customer was anticipated to be $923.45 per panel — a figure approved by the BCUC. The pre-sales deposit fee was $500 per panel.
The anticipated total cost of the project was $224,689 for a 200-panel (50 kW) project. However, the 30 extra panels are still available until they are sold.
The Nelson Hydro budget of $25,000 for the Community Solar Garden project plan is included in the 2015 financial plan with $2,000 per year for maintenance thereafter.
A contribution of $15,000 has been received from Bullfrog Power and other possible funding sources will be pursued with remaining costs recovered through the customer charge for each panel, Love explained
“The highest cost to each customer is anticipated to be $923.45 per panel and may be lower depending on the level of sales and third party contributions,” Love said.
The city levies fees and charges on being revenue neutral as they are set at an amount that recovers the associated cost of providing the service.