Fortis seeks feedback on 'common rate' application 

Home bills might fall 26 to 39 per cent in Whistler

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Substantially lower natural gas rates may be coming to Whistler by 2014 if Fortis BC's bid to unify its three gas utilities into a single company, with a unified billing system and common rates for all of its customers across the province, succeeds.

"The main thing for us is the benefit to many of our customers," explained Fortis BC spokesperson Kirsten Walker. Fortis held a public meeting in Whistler on Monday to present the idea.

While there will be operating efficiencies as a result of combining their three utility companies into one, Walker stressed that the application is "revenue neutral" for the company — customers in the Lower Mainland and other areas would see slightly higher bills, around $30 to $40 per year based on average consumption rates, while other areas like Whistler would see a decline of 26 to 39 per cent for residential customers, and unspecific decreases for government and commercial customers. If approved by the B.C. Utility Commission (BCUC), every customer's gas bills and rates will be the same across the province, regardless of where they live.

"It will be simpler to understand rates. If a customer owns a home in Whistler and Vancouver, their rates will be the same. Same for business owners with businesses in Whistler and Vancouver," said Walker.

Fortis BC filed its application for common rates to the BCUC in November, and is now seeking public feedback. Fortis is collecting responses at www.fortisbc.com/commonrates, which will be sent to the BCUC for review. If the application is approved the new common rate schedule could go into effect by 2014.

Meanwhile, Fortis BC has a revenue requirement application before the BCUC for 2013, which was filed in May 2011. If passed it could result in higher rates for some Whistler customers and lower rates for others, with an overall decrease for the resort.

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