02/16/2012 08:28 EST | Updated 04/17/2012 05:12 EDT

BC Hydro rates to jump almost 4 per cent in April, surcharge also doubling

VANCOUVER - BC Hydro rates are jumping almost four per cent April 1 as the result of a decision by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

But the NDP says the bigger story is the commission's decision to double a surcharge Hydro adds to bills for an account to pay off deferred expenses.

That surcharge — called the Deferral Account Rate Rider — will double from 2.5 per cent to five per cent, which Hydro says will add an average of five dollars to customers' monthly bills, on top of the 3.9 general rate hike.

NDP energy critic John Horgan says the Utilities Commission ordered the increase in the surcharge to help stem the growth of Hydro's deferred accounts, which already stand at $2.2 billion.

He blames the government for putting off expenses and allowing the deferred accounts to grow, saying the Liberals tried to hide the costs of what he calls a mismanaged energy policy.

The 3.9 per cent basic rate hike is down from Hydro's original request of 9.7 per cent, which was cut back after the government ordered a review of Hydro in a bid to hold down rate hikes.