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Proposed hydro increases could raise RMOW costs 57 per cent

Property tax increases don't yet take into account increasing energy costs

A series of rate increases proposed by BC Hydro could increase the municipal power bill by 57.7 per cent through 2015, from a total bill of $860,000 in 2009 to more than $1.35 million.

Ted Battiston, the manager of community energy and emissions reductions at the municipality, said the numbers are raw estimates, based on current power usage, proposed rate increases and changes to the way commercial customers are billed.

So far there have not been any property tax increases to accommodate the rising hydro rate - department budgets have been frozen and managers have been tasked with finding room for the increases within their current budgets.

The RMOW's power usage includes municipal buildings, the wastewater treatment plant, the composter and Meadow Park Sports Centre.

The municipality has not been standing still and Battiston said they are hoping to reduce energy usage between two and three per cent a year over the next five years. In that scenario (six different energy scenarios are being evaluated) the RMOW would face a 39.7 per cent increase in electricity expenses or an additional $341,279.

"These numbers are not precise, but show the order of magnitude of the increases," said Battiston. "The challenge is significant, and not just for the municipality but for all businesses in town paying commercial rates."

Battiston said the rising prices are forcing the RMOW and others to do a better job of conserving and encouraging it to take advantage of the programs that are out there to help reduce energy consumption.

"We've been working with BC Hydro and their PowerSmart program, and this year three additional buildings have gone through a tip-to-toe energy audit," said Battiston.

"We have metrics on the rate of the return of investment on things to reduce energy consumption, as well metrics on what the payback will be on the things that we invest in... We're going through an entire inventory of our energy spending and we will continue to do that. Hopefully those things will have an overall, measurable impact on energy use."

Numbers for last year are not complete, but Battiston said they would be similar to 2009. There is no reduction in energy use between the two years, despite investments to reduce power consumption - including a massive investment in solar and geothermal water heating systems at Meadow Park that could reduce power costs by $100,000 per year.

"Whatever we've done, changing light bulbs and fixtures, we've been adding something with more load (on the power system)... so our power usage has been flat," he explained.

BC Hydro has said the rate increases are necessary to upgrade dams and the power transmission network. Just under 20 per cent of the increase would also go towards covering the higher rates paid for electricity by BC Hydro from private power projects.