Expect demand for electricity to remain high as the cold weather continues.

Expect demand for electricity to remain high as the cold weather continues.

BC Hydro offers new winter payment option

However, the NDP argues that consumers are paying more to meet projected profits that have failed to materialize.

BC Hydro has announced that it will allow customers extra time to pay their bills this winter. The special 2016/2017 Winter Payment Plan option gives residential customers the choice to spread bill payments for the winter months (December 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017) over six months.

“Given the unusually cold weather, we anticipate that many of our customers will receive higher than normal bills,” says Jessica McDonald, president and CEO of BC Hydro. “We recognize that some customers may need the option to manage the costs over a longer period of time. This program allows them to do that.”

However, while the NDP’s spokesperson on BC Hydro, Adrian Dix (Vancouver-Kingsway), admits that the plan will provide some relief for many people struggling to pay their Hydro bills, customers will still have to pay the bills in full. “It doesn’t affect the massive Liberal rate increases.”

Speaking with The Journal, Dix noted that BC Hydro rates have increased by 28 per cent since Premier Christy Clark took office in 2011, and will be going up this year and next as well.

“The Liberals put out a 10-year plan for BC Hydro in 2013. They said that demand for electricity would go up dramatically, but it didn’t. Short term demand [during the cold weather] is up, but long term demand is down. Their forecast for demand was dramatically wrong.

“So B.C. has surplus energy that increases the Hydro bill. The Liberals have missed their revenue projections for BC Hydro by $3.5 billion over the length of the 10-year plan. When you miss your target by $3.5 billion, people have to pay.”

Customers who would like to participate in the 2016/2017 Winter Payment Plan can call BC Hydro customer service at 1-800-BCHYDRO (1-800-224-9376).

The latest deep-freeze has seen temperatures plummet around the province, and caused BC Hydro to set a new record for power consumption between 5 and 6 p.m. on January 3. During that hour, demand for electricity peaked at 10,126 megawatts. This surpasses the old record of 10,113 megawatts consumed between 5 and 6 p.m. on November 29, 2006.

Tuesday, January 3 was the day that schools reopened after Christmas break, and many businesses reopened after being closed, or operating under shorter hours, during the same period.

BC Hydro notes that the highest demand for electricity in the winter months traditionally comes between 4 and 8 p.m. on weekday evenings, when the majority of British Columbians come home, turn up the heat, switch on the lights, make dinner, and do laundry.

Demand for electricity is expected to remain high as the cold snap looks set to continue across much of the province for several days. Residential energy consumption can increase, on average, by 88 per cent in the colder, darker winter months. However, there are some simple ways to save power that can decrease demand and save consumers money on their hydro bills.

Managing your thermostat is a good place to start. Lowering it by two degrees will save five per cent, while lowering it by five degrees will save 10 per cent. Make sure to turn the temperature down at night, and when there is no one home during the day.

If you have a room that is not being used, close or seal off the heating vent and keep the door closed, to save heating unused space. Replace or clean furnace filters as necessary, and make sure your hot water tank is not “overheating” the water (and turn it off if you plan on being away for any length of time).

If you have a second fridge that is not being used, unplugging it will save $90 per year, while unplugging unused electronic equipment will save you up to $50 per year. Washing your laundry in cold water will save $27 per year, and turning off unnecessary lights will save up to $12 per year.

Seal up leaks around doors and windows, and look for places where you have pipes, vents, or electrical conduits that go through the wall, ceiling, or floor (the bathroom, under the kitchen sink, pipes inside a closet, etc.). If you find a spot where there is a gap, seal it up.

Take advantage of south-facing windows to let in free heat when it is sunny, and make sure to close curtains and blinds at night to keep the heat in. Since hot air rises, use ceiling fans on a low setting to push the heat back down.

Bundling up is not just good advice for those braving the elements outdoors. Wear layers of warm clothing, thick socks, and slippers indoors, and make bare floors warmer with area rugs. Keep throw blankets on chairs and couches, and add an extra blanket to your bed.

Because the heated air inside your home can be very dry in winter, consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Moist air feels warmer and holds the heat better. Use exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms sparingly, as they pull out the hot air that rises to the ceiling. Adding house plants is also a good way to increase the humidity in your home.