Energy Board approves Hydro rate increase, variable pricing plan

Quebec's energy board has approved a rate increase for Hydro-Quebec but not as much as the power utility wanted. 

Hydro asked for a 1.2% increase for residential clients; the energy board authorized one for 0.9%. 

Rates for industrial clients will go up 0.3% instead of 0.6% as Hydro had requested. The increases take effect April 1.

For the average home heated with electricity, using just over 18,000 kWh annually, that means a monthly increase of about $1.11 or $13 more a year.

Hydro says that on average, the increase means:

- 32 cents more per month for a 5 1/2
- 90 cents more per month for a small house
- $1.72 more per month for a medium-sized house
- $2.56 more per month for a large house

The energy board also approved variable rate options for next winter between December 1 and March 31, to enable consumers to lower their bills by reducing their power consumption during peak periods: 6 a.m and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Clients can sign up on a voluntary basis.

The first option lets you keep paying the base rate and you'll get a 50-cents-per-kWh credit if you lower your electricity consumption during peak hours.

The second option, the "Flex rate", lets you pay a lower rate than the base price outside of peak periods.  But the power utility underlines that during peak hours, you'll pay a rate even higher than the base rate of 50-cents-per-kWh so your bill could balloon if you use a lot of electricity at that time.

The variable pricing plan will be rolled out gradually - during the first year, 20,000 clients selected at random will take part. They will need to have a valid email address, a smart meter and an online billing account.