Councillor Holly Back was the lone voice of dissent against the five per cent rate increase Lonsdale Energy Corporation (LEC) will apply to its customers.
With only Back opposed, six councillors voted to give LEC the go-ahead to increase the rate by five per cent. The annual rate increase for five years was first approved by council in 2017.
Those consuming more than 300 Megawatt per year would now have to pay $3.66 more every month on their meter charge. LEC blames inflation, maintenance, construction and increased recovery cost for heat from the North Shore Waste Water Treatment plant for the rate increase.
The new rates will go into effect from November 1 this year.
Ben Themens, the director of LEC, claimed the rates for the LEC had been quite low for the last few years. “We are satisfied that we are quite competitive. We have been very much lower and if we go back to the original targets, we will have plenty of room to increase the rates, but it is not necessary at this time,” he said.
However, Gary Matheson, the manager at Quay Property Management, said LEC rates were far from competitive. “It is not competitive. Our clients fall off the chairs when they get their first LEC bill,” he said. He said LEC was a “very, very expensive” source, and the problem is compounded by the fact that Shipyards was exclusively using LEC for cooling and heating, which meant baseboard heating wasn’t allowed.
“With LEC, you are charged on the maximum capacity charge so regardless of whether you are using it or not, you are paying for it. The capacity charge is high and to have an increase of five per cent every year over five years, we are concerned.”
Matheson said he disagreed with the justification of heat recovery for the increase. The consumers couldn’t be gouged due to other infrastructure commitments LEC might have, he said. “When LEC is significantly more expensive than developing one’s own system, we have to take a really hard look at what cost are we getting this green energy. It has to be reasonable.”
Back agreed with him.
“I am not feeling comfortable because they (consumers) have no voice. I don’t believe the rates are competitive with BC Hydro rates. It seems like we are charging the user of today for what we are going to do tomorrow. With all the taxes and the LEC increase, we are not going to have a lot of small businesses left in the City of North Vancouver, if we continue to raise everything,” she said.
Councillor Tony Valente said as a LEC rate payer, he wasn’t comfortable with the five per cent increase, but added that it was a decision taken by the previous council, and there were benefits to the system. “What we are going to get with this is the connection to the water treatment plant, and 33 per cent of GHGs will be offset. Dealing with the climate crisis is going to take money,” he said.
Councillor Don Bell said his recollection was that the purpose of LEC was to create an environmentally friendly system, but it would also be an economic benefit to consumers. “I think the issue appears to be that it costs them more than the alternative and I will reluctantly support this but we need a good discussion on this so the average person can understand this complex situation,” he said.
Councillor Jessica Mcllroy said there was a misunderstanding and tension in the community around LEC, and there was need for public engagement and education on this. Mayor Linda Buchanan said she supported a discussion on LEC.
“We need to move forward and get back to the table on what the concerns are,” she said.