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Starting in 2024 you could see big savings on your BC Hydro bill

BC Hydro consumers who are able to lower their electrical consumption in the evenings and those with electric cars are most likely to benefit from a proposed optional time-of-use rate scheme
Changes in washing machine habits may save money with BC Hydro starting in April, 2024.

British Columbians may get the opportunity to save between $40 and $240 on their BC Hydro bill annually, starting next year, should the BC Utilities Commission approve a new rate plan based on the time of day in which electricity is consumed.

The proposed time-of-use (TOU) rate, driven by an expected increased demand from electric vehicles, will allow BC Hydro consumers to alter their home energy consumption patterns to take advantage of rate cuts during the night. Conversely, they'll pay more during peak hours.

Consumers — who represent 95 per cent of the province's population — will be given the option starting as early as April 1, 2024, should the energy provider's application to the commission proceed on time.

The commission is expected to hold a hearing after a procedural conference on Aug. 18, and those wishing to act as an intervenor have a registration deadline of May 26. BC Hydro is already informing customers of its proposal in its most recent bills.

Optional residential time-of-use rate proposes savings and surcharge

As TOU is proposed, BC Hydro will cut its energy charge by five cents per kWh between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Conversely, it will add a five cent per kWh charge for electricity consumed between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. The regular rates will apply during the other times — late evening and much of the day.

As it stands, BC Hydro charges 9.59 cents per kWh for the first 1,350 kWh over a two-month billing period and 14.22 cents per kWh after that, plus a 21.1 cents charge per day. (The commission has approved these regular rates to increase 2.18 per cent next year.)

The average monthly consumption of all residential customers in 2022 was 830 kWh, which is about 10,000 kWh a year, with an average monthly bill of about $100.

Based on the assumption that participating consumers reduce their electricity use in peak periods by five per cent and half of this use is shifted to the off-peak period, an average single-family electrically heated home could save about $40. But, the expected savings jump to as much as $240 if an electric vehicle owner charges at night, according to BC Hydro.

According to BC Hydro's report to the commission, savings for a busy household could be greater with more vigilance: Simply shifting the daily use of a dishwasher from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. will save about $25 annually and doing the same with just two loads of laundry will save another $25.

Based on public consultation, about seven in 10 British Columbians say they can run their washing appliances during off-peak hours.

BC Hydro says there is "strong support" for these new rates as 77 per cent of public survey respondents expressed "positive alignment" while 15 per cent indicated "little or no support."

Why is BC Hydro proposing TOU rates?

The key impetus for TOU rates is the growing demand for electricity from electric vehicles, according to BC Hydro.

The Crown Corporation's all-time total domestic system peak consumption was 10,577 MW on Jan. 14, 2020. In 2024, BC Hydro forecasts the peak demand for unconstrained electric vehicle charging to be 188 MW. Based on public policy measures to increase electric vehicle sales, BC Hydro predicts this consumption will jump to 2,196 MW in 2040.

BC Hydro's report to the commission states it expects the TOU rate "to achieve approximately 135 MW of capacity savings by fiscal 2030 at the customer-meter level" when electric vehicles are forecast to be using 677 MW at peak demand.

BC Hydro spokesperson Susie Rieder says BC Hydro needs to manage consumption to ease the electrical loads during these peak hours.

Rieder explained that electrical infrastructure is like a water pipe — the more electricity used, the bigger the pipe (electrical capacity) required. So, throttling peak loads will keep energy delivery more cost-efficient, said Rieder.

Although rare, BC Hydro allows consumers with separate electric car charging meters to opt-in only for their vehicle.

"A two-meter setup is not common today," said Rieder. "While a second meter itself doesn't cost much, the retrofit costs to install it into an existing dwelling can often be expensive. That said, going forward, this could become a more common setup in newer homes. And for existing homes, there are technology solutions under development that would allow EV consumption to be on TOU and the home consumption not on TOU, even with only one meter. So, over time, we expect the EV on TOU and home not on TOU setup will become common for customers," stated Rieder via email.

Furthermore, BC Hydro is expected to propose new rates for public electric vehicle fast-charging stations by June 30.

BC Hydro says allowing customers this option will align its rate policy with a growing number of jurisdictions in North America, including Hydro One in Ontario, which charges off-peak rates of 7.4 cents per kWh and on-peak rates of 15.10 cents per kWh.

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