Natural gas prices on the decline, consumers to see savings

Residents can expect to see savings reflected on their bills as early as January

Natural gas users in Campbell River can expect to see a significant savings on their gas bills starting in January.

FortisBC gas rates will be reduced by 25 per cent across Vancouver Island, phased in over three to four years.

City Manager Andy Laidlaw said residents can expect to see reduced rates in as little as three months.

“The BC Utilities Commission has approved a rate harmonization approach by Fortis on a phased basis,” Laidlaw wrote in a report to city council. “This means a significant 25 per cent reduction in natural gas rates…beginning with a seven per cent reduction on Jan. 1, 2015.”

Earlier this year, the commission approved an application by FortisBC to amalgamate its three utilities and equalize the price for natural gas throughout B.C.

The BC Utilities Commission had denied Fortis’ application to amalgamate FortisBC Energy, FortisBC Energy Vancouver Island, and FortisBC Energy Whistler in 2013 but reversed its decision on Feb. 26 of this year.

Coun. Claire Moglove first announced the good news at a Strathcona Regional District meeting in March, saying it was a big win for the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities (AVICC) which had been lobbying for the change for at least three years.

At last week’s Tuesday council meeting, Moglove delivered more good news.

She said the province has finally agreed to remove a prohibition that forbid Island communities from collecting operating fees from the gas utility when natural gas came to Vancouver Island years ago. A commitment was made to remove the prohibition once a gas line construction debt was paid off and despite that being paid three years ago, the prohibition remained.

Moglove said the province has recently indicated it will introduce legislation during the Legislature’s current fall session to remove the prohibition.

“There’s legislation going to be coming down that will finally allow municipalities on Vancouver Island to charge an operating fee, as do other communities in the province,” Moglove said. “This is the most important issue AVICC has dealt with in my time on the AVICC board.”

Moglove said the good news for the city is that Campbell River stands to collect $202,794 on average starting in 2016.

Laidlaw said city staff will be recommending to council that those revenues be put towards rehabilitating roads throughout the city.

Moglove said she’s pleased to see the changes finally come to fruition.

“This is a good news story and the culmination of significant work done by AVICC,” Moglove said, “so I’m pleased it’s finally gotten here.”