To support the development of clean-energy projects and businesses that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions, benefit ratepayers and provide potential economic opportunities for Indigenous communities, government has asked the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) to conduct an inquiry into the regulation of Indigenous utilities.
Currently, entities with a connection to an Indigenous community that want to provide energy services must be regulated as public utilities under the Utilities Commission Act (UCA). This ensures customers are protected and have recourse to an independent, third-party regulator to intervene in any complaints or concerns about rates, quality of service or other issues related to the utility.
Due to the costs and administrative burden this requirement places on smaller-scale energy service providers, some Indigenous communities and energy system developers have requested exemptions from the provisions of the UCA.
A transparent, public inquiry will provide a forum for the BCUC to hear from interested parties on how Indigenous utilities should be regulated.
The BCUC’s findings and recommendations will inform the development of a regulatory framework that will bring clarity to Indigenous communities and energy companies looking to pursue opportunities in the clean-energy sector and meet CleanBC goals.
The BCUC will structure the inquiry to enable participation by Indigenous communities, stakeholders and the public and provide recommendations on the following questions:
- What characteristics define an Indigenous utility?
- Should Indigenous utilities be regulated under the UCA?
- If so, what kind of framework should be applied?
- If not, how will government ensure that ratepayers are protected?
A timetable and information on how to get involved in the inquiry will be made available by the BCUC in the near future. A final report on the inquiry from the BCUC will be delivered to government by Jan. 31, 2020.