VICTORIA, B.C- Families facing financial stress from energy rate rises will be able to get help from the province, according to Michelle Mungall.

Mungall, who serves as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources issued a statement on Friday in response to a planned three per cent rise in BC Hydro rates.

The NDP government had been seeking a rate freeze, which was turned down by the B.C. Utilities Commission in recent days.

“I am disappointed the BCUC turned down BC Hydro’s request for a one-year rate freeze, and instead, approved the previous government’s rate increase,” said Mungall, in the statement.

“We completely understand the affordability crisis so many families face, and will be taking action quickly to address the need to reduce electricity costs for those who need it most.”

According to the statement, the government will be working with customer groups and BC Hydro on a “lifeline rate” program. Customers who have “demonstrated need” would be able to access a lower rate for their electricity.

“In addition, starting in May, BC Hydro residential customers who find themselves in an emergency – such as loss of employment, unanticipated medical expenses or pending eviction for example – will be eligible for a grant toward their outstanding BC Hydro bill,” said Mungall.

“The grant is up to $600 and does not need to be repaid.”

Mungall also spoke about the plans to eliminate the PST on electricity, from which the province has predicted $150 in annual savings.

“Our government will also undertake a comprehensive review of BC Hydro to make it work for people,” said Mungall.

“The review will identify changes and cost savings to keep rates low, while ensuring BC Hydro has the resources it needs to continue to provide clean, safe and reliable electricity. We expect to announce the scope and process for the review in the coming weeks.”

The statement concluded by saying Mungall respected the work of the utilities commission, though she was disappointed with their decision.