Living in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, it’s not surprising why so many homeowners and businesses ask, “Why is my electric bill so high?” After all, we have so many natural resources!
It seems like a valid question with everything from the diverse and breathtaking natural landscapes to our high standard of living and abundant access to natural resources.
Whether it’s for pleasure or business, we seem to have been blessed with an endless supply of clean and renewable energy sources. However, despite living so close to these renewable natural resources, many British Columbians are often left puzzled by their high BC Hydro or FortisBC electric bills.
In this article, our Premium Electric electricians talk about the reasons why your electric bill may be so high in BC. We’ll focus on what it costs to produce different electricity types, and how household use, weather, and economic activity can significantly impact these expenses. We’ll also look at helpful ways to bring electricity costs and your overall energy costs down.
The Cost of Producing Electricity Can Make Electricity Bills High
British Columbia has a diverse range of energy resources that help generate electricity. In fact, 98% of our power comes from clean, renewable resources.
The primary sources of power production in the province are:
- Natural gas
- And some renewable energies like wind, solar power, and biomass
Let’s take a look at each of them and what factors may cause your electricity bill to be so high.
Hydroelectricity is BC’s main power source, accounting for over 90% of the province’s total electricity generation. This power source boasts relatively low greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation.
Other provinces rely more on a mix of fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and natural gas), and nuclear power.
A form of renewable energy, Hydroelectric power plants harness the energy of flowing or falling water to produce clean electricity. BC’s numerous rivers and reservoirs provide an ideal environment for large-scale hydroelectric projects.
BC is home to 31 hydroelectric plants that provide energy across 75,000 km of power lines and into our BC businesses and homes.
These power lines run throughout BC’s rugged landscapes, over mountain tops, through dense forests, and through many of BC’s amazing rivers.
Hydroelectric Power Plants – Although scattered across the rugged BC landscape, our hydroelectric power plants have a great capacity for electricity generation in regions like the Peace River Valley, Columbia Basin, and many of our coastal areas.
While hydroelectricity is relatively cheap and environmentally friendly once the infrastructure is in place, that’s only part of the story. Why your electric bill is so high may be due to the high initial construction costs and the ongoing required maintenance. These can be significant factors influencing the overall cost of electricity.
BC Compared to Other Provinces – BC electricity can be relatively higher compared to many other provinces in Canada. This is due, in part, to the cost of maintaining hydroelectric infrastructures to ensure continuous transmissions. Environmental conditions can vary a lot and can also affect the cost of delivering electricity.
Rural Communities – If you’re living in an isolated area or rural community, your costs may be higher. This could be due to additional power lines that are needed or weather conditions and other environmental issues that may impact services.
Coastal Communities – If you’re living on the coast of British Columbia, access to hydroelectricity can be less costly but still include factors like population density, environmental regulations, and transmission costs.
Natural gas power plants play a secondary role in BC’s energy mix, mostly during peak demand periods when hydroelectric capacity alone may not suffice. This resource can be found in areas like the Horn River Basin, the Cordova Embayment, the Liard Basin, and the Montney Basin.
The Natural Gas is sent to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities through a pipeline. Natural gas plants are more expensive to operate compared to hydroelectric facilities. They rely on the fluctuating prices of fossil fuels and sometimes limited transportation and sales markets.
The province of British Columbia has a huge mix of energy resources to diversify and reduce carbon emissions. The province is continually investing in renewable energy sources like wind power, solar energy, biomass, and Geothermal Energy. Are they feasible in your area and would they keep your electricity bill from being so high?
Wind energy is feasible in several regions of BC, including coastal areas and certain interior locations with consistent wind patterns. Wind farms can be found in areas such as the Peace Region, Vancouver Island, and West Kootenay area.
Solar energy is available throughout BC, although solar power generation is more commonly used in coastal and interior regions as they have higher sunlight exposure. Urban centers like Vancouver and smaller communities across the province have adopted solar energy systems for residential, commercial, and institutional use.
Biomass energy is found in regions with forestry and agricultural activities. Many communities in BC use biomass for district heating and electricity generation. Although these renewable sources are considered cleaner, they often involve higher upfront costs. Factors such as infrastructure and technology can translate into higher electricity prices.
Electricity Transmission & Distribution
The process of transmitting electricity from power plants to homes and businesses incurs additional costs. This is especially true in rural or isolated communities. Electricity must travel through a complex network of power lines, transformers, and substations before reaching end users.
BC Hydro’s transmission system spans over 18,000 km of lines. These include underwater submarine cables that move electricity from generating stations to 292 distribution substations. The system includes a 500 kV bulk transmission network. This network connects major generators in the northern and southern Interior regions to heavily populated areas in southwest B.C.
These northern and southern electrical facilities host most of the generation of electricity. However, most load consumption of electricity is in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. These costs, along with ongoing maintenance expenses, are factored into the final electricity bill.
Factors Affecting Household Electricity Usage
Apart from the cost of what it takes to produce and maintain electricity, the amount of electricity used by households plays an important role. Household usage could be another reason why your electric bill is so high. There are several factors that contribute to higher electricity consumption in British Columbia homes and businesses.
BC’s climate can be extreme, with cold winters putting high demand on heating and hot summers putting high demand on cooling and air conditioning.
As a result, homeowners and residents typically rely on electric heating or cooling systems. This leads to higher electricity usage during these seasons. Milder winters and a temperate climate make living on BC’s west coast and Vancouver Island more favourable due to the lower electricity needed.
Home Size and Insulation
Larger homes with poor insulation require more energy to maintain comfortable temperatures. Proper insulation and energy-efficient windows and doors can help reduce electricity consumption and lower bills. BC Hydro’s rebate program and FortisBC’s list of rebates and offers provide additional incentives to enhance home energy savings like installing smart thermostats.
The choice of household appliances can significantly impact electricity usage. Energy-efficient appliances, such as LED light bulbs, ENERGY STAR-rated refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers, can save considerable energy and reduce costs over time. BC Hydro offers rebates for energy-efficient products and has its own Power Smart Shop for energy efficient-products.
Standby Power Consumption
Standby power consumption or “standby power” (aka phantom power) consumes electricity from electronic devices even when not in active use. This phantom or standby power usage can account for a surprising amount of the monthly bill.
Unplugging devices or using power strips can help eliminate this waste of electricity consumption. Many electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, gaming consoles, chargers, and even kitchen appliances (think microwaves and coffee makers), are often plugged in 24/7. That means they are on standby mode continuously.
Time of Use Electricity Rates
Some utility companies offer Time of Use (TOU) pricing where electricity costs more during peak demand hours and less during off-peak hours. While TOU rates can be beneficial for preserving energy and saving costs, they might be less effective for households with limited flexibility in terms of when they can use electricity.
Some households, such as those with specific work schedules or medical needs, might find it challenging to shift their electricity usage to off-peak hours. Being mindful throughout your day of when you use any electricity-intensive appliances can lead to noticeable savings.
User Behavioural Patterns
Personal habits can also contribute to higher electricity bills. For instance, leaving lights on when not needed, taking long showers, or running the dishwasher with only a few items inside can all add up over time.
Households also may need to adjust their behaviour and take advantage of lower rates during off-peak hours. For example, you might wait to do laundry, dishwashing, and other electricity-intensive tasks until off-peak periods.
Average Electricity Consumption for BC Homes
Electricity consumption is measured using an electricity meter and in kilowatt-hours (kWh), the most common unit to measure and bill electricity consumed.
A kilowatt is made up of 1,000 watts, therefore, one kilowatt-hour = 1,000 watts of electricity used for one hour.
Ways to Save Electricity and Energy at Home
Improving energy efficiency is a crucial focus in BC, benefiting households, businesses, and institutions. It also helps them to save money, enhance competitiveness, and enhance overall quality of life.
Here are some ways that you can save energy at home.
Get A Home Energy Monitor
Option to get a home energy monitor from BC Hydro offers real-time insights into your electricity usage. The monitor helps to identify energy-wasting habits and appliances. By tracking consumption patterns, setting goals, and making informed adjustments, you can reduce energy waste and lower electricity costs.
Install Energy-Efficient Windows & Doors
Installing energy-efficient windows and doors offers improved comfort by stabilizing indoor temperatures and reducing drafts. This upgrade lowers energy bills through reduced heating and cooling costs. It also provides environmental benefits by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Thinking of Your Devices
Whenever possible, unplug your electronic devices when they are not in use. Use multiple-plug power strips to easily cut off power to multiple devices. You can also ensure that energy-efficient settings are switched on for your devices.
Consider whether you need certain devices to be in standby mode all the time. For instance, unplug chargers when not actively charging a device. Visit BC Hydro for more energy-saving tips and technologies.
Summary – Why Is My Electric Bill So High?
In summary, the high electricity bills that many British Columbia residents have can be attributed to two primary things:
- The cost of building and maintaining BC’s energy resources. This includes hydroelectricity, natural gas, and renewables and the intricate transmission network that spans the vast geography of our province.
- Household habits, such as leaving lights and devices powered on or using non-energy-efficient appliances.
As British Columbia continues its commitment to sustainable energy and efficient consumption, households have the power to take control of their electricity use and expenses through informed energy choices.
From the impact of weather conditions to optimizing home size and insulation, we can all do our part. We can also embrace energy-efficient products and appliances and stay vigilant about standby power consumption. BC residents and households can make a huge impact on their electricity bills and contribute to a more sustainable and energy-efficient future for British Columbia.
About Premium Electric
Serving the Fraser Valley and the Greater Vancouver Regional District, Abbotsford’s Premium Electric operates 24/7. Our certified and fully bonded electricians are here to help whether you need a residential electrician or electrical services for your commercial or industrial project.
From electrical repairs and troubleshooting to installations and electrical inspections, we can help no matter how big or small your electrical problem may be. We also provide businesses and commercial clients with regular electrical maintenance services.
If you still have questions about why your electric bill is so high, or looking for answers to other electricity questions, please talk to us.