Powering Through the Weather

Many residents are facing higher than expected electricity bills this winter and have turned to the media or called the City to voice their concerns. Despite the fact that both lakes froze over and people where skating on the ice for the first time in many years, we don’t always realize just how cold it has been or equate cold temperatures to higher electric bills. 

According to Environment Canada data, Penticton had 12 days below -10C in January 2017 compared to just one such day in January 2016. FortisBC reports that peak electricity use in Penticton was 40% higher in January than the peak in November. The average mean temperatures for both December 2016 and January 2017 were approximately five degrees colder than the previous year. February has been extremely cold so far with many nights dipping below minus ten.  The cold temperatures will likely lead to increased electricity consumption for the next month at least.

Many factors affect electricity consumption — use of electric heating systems or space heaters, electric water heaters, poor insulation, and old/poor quality windows are the most common energy hogs.  Even a gas furnace uses a large electric fan to circulate heat throughout your home and the efficiency of this fan can vary greatly depending on the age of your furnace. During the holiday season we are often at home longer or host friends and family which can also drive up usage. The number of days in the billing period also fluctuates by several days due to the meter reading schedule and ranges from 28 to 35 days.

There is a lot of information on the FortisBC website regarding energy saving tips and if you are looking to make energy saving upgrades, you should definitely visit fortisbc.com/rebates and see what offers are available. Fortis also offers an energy savings kit and an energy conservation assistance program for low income homeowners.  The City also has an energy retrofit program which starts with a homeowner’s energy assessment. Examples include: energy efficient furnaces or hot water heaters, air sealing, doors, exterior wall insulation, windows and basement insulation.  The City will loan up to $10,000 amortized over 10 years at an interest rate of prime +0.5%.  Loan payments are added to the monthly electrical bill. For details, please consult the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) guide.

It might seem counter intuitive for a power provider to promote energy efficiency or offer rebates and subsidies to lower consumption, but increasing infrastructure capacity is expensive and it’s in everyone’s best interest to conserve energy. 

City of Penticton electrical rates increased from $0.1233/kwh to $0.1284/kwh in 2017 and this rate will be reflected in your next billing cycle. This increase coincides with FortisBC approved increases from the BC Utilities commission. The City purchase power from FortisBC at wholesale and run our own utility. More information on utility rates can be found in the City’s Fees and Charges Bylaw.

The City understands that  fluctuations in your electric bill can be a hardship and we encourage you to call our utilities department at 250-490-2489 if you are having trouble paying your bill. We prefer to work with customers on a case-by-case basis to find a solution and ensure you maintain your account rather than face disconnection. This takes place year-round, not just in the winter months.

The demand for electricity to power our daily lives is ever-increasing and the costs associated with generating and delivering electricity continue to climb. Rather than focus on lowering costs, we need to shift our focus to conservation and what we can do to reduce electricity consumption in our daily lives.