PUB or­ders more in­for­ma­tion from NL Hy­dro

Board hopes to avoid de­lay in hear­ing; sched­ule un­der dis­cus­sion

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK ash­ley.fitz­patrick@thetele­

Nal­cor En­ergy’s reg­u­lated sub­sidiary, New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro, is be­ing or­dered by the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board (PUB) to pro­duce more in­for­ma­tion be­fore any pub­lic hear­ing can be held or a de­ci­sion made on new power rates.

This is in re­la­tion to the gen­eral rate ap­pli­ca­tion now be­fore the reg­u­la­tor, seek­ing a 6.6 per cent in­crease for 2018 and a 6.4 per cent in­crease for 2019.

A de­lay, paired with a de­mand for doc­u­ments and re­sponses to cer­tain ques­tions, was re­quested by Con­sumer Ad­vo­cate Den­nis Browne. Browne has pub­licly con­demned what he iden­ti­fied as a 23 per cent hike for con­sumers be­fore HST com­ing by Jan. 1, 2019 — a com­bi­na­tion of the re­quested rate in­crease and changes from the prov­ince’s rate sta­bi­liza­tion plan.

He found sup­port on his re­cent ap­pli­ca­tion from New­found­land Power and, on sev­eral points, the Is­land In­dus­trial Cus­tomers (an in­ter­vener rep­re­sent­ing a hand­ful of in­dus­trial power users on the is­land).

After hear­ing from all par­ties, in­clud­ing con­cerns from Hy­dro on any de­lay of process, the PUB has or­dered that more in­for­ma­tion be pro­duced. It in­cludes in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the is­land por­tion of the prov­ince be­ing con­nected to the North Amer­i­can grid for the first time, as the Mar­itime Link comes on­line.

The Labrador-Is­land Link, along with the Mar­itime Link con­nec­tion be­tween the is­land of New­found­land and Nova Sco­tia, is ex­pected to be in ser­vice in mid-2018.

“Hy­dro has been sent back to do its home­work,” Browne told the Tele­gram Jan. 26, pleased with the de­ci­sion on his ap­pli­ca­tion.

New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro has been or­dered to pro­vide its ex­pec­ta­tions re­gard­ing the off-is­land pur­chase of power in the near-term, main­te­nance costs for the LabradorIs­land Link, what off-is­land pur­chases could mean for the use of the ther­mal power plant at Holy­rood and more, re­lated to the over­all cost of ser­vice.

The PUB did not or­der all in­for­ma­tion be­ing sought by the con­sumer ad­vo­cate, say­ing it was not per­suaded that it would con­trib­ute to the board’s un­der­stand­ing of Hy­dro’s rate pro­pos­als.

Hav­ing re­viewed the de­ci­sion, Browne said he and his of­fice were sat­is­fied that much of what was sought will be in­cluded in the doc­u­ments and re­sponses or­dered by the PUB.

“The board rec­og­nized that this (con­sumer ad­vo­cate) ap­pli­ca­tion has de­layed the sched­uled start of the hear­ing of Hy­dro’s gen­eral rate ap­pli­ca­tion and that pro­duc­tion of ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion may re­sult in fur­ther de­lays. Nev­er­the­less, the board is sat­is­fied that, in the cir­cum­stances, ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion should be filed,” the PUB states in the or­der.

The pub­lic hear­ing was sched­uled to start at the end of Jan­uary. The sched­ule is now un­der re­view.

The con­sumer ad­vo­cate said he found the orig­i­nal ap­pli­ca­tion for the rate in­creases to be in­com­plete, and lack­ing ev­i­dence. But he also said the ap­pli­ca­tion is just one con­cern.

There is an on­go­ing con­cern now for costs and reg­u­la­tion as the Muskrat Falls hy­dro­elec­tric project comes on­line.

“Ev­ery­one’s time would be bet­ter spent if we all start plan­ning for the fu­ture,” Browne said, adding he would like to see a ref­er­ence made to the PUB to ad­dress these con­cerns.

For its part, Hy­dro is co-op­er­at­ing with the board to de­ter­mine its next steps, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment in re­sponse to ques­tions.

“Hy­dro fully un­der­stands that our cus­tomers are con­cerned about elec­tric­ity rates and we share those con­cerns. The Off Is­land De­fer­ral Ac­count was one op­tion pro­posed by Hy­dro to help smooth in fu­ture rates re­lated to Muskrat Falls. Hy­dro wishes to re­it­er­ate that its pro­posal would have re­sulted in no ben­e­fit to the com­pany as all funds in the pro­posed de­fer­ral ac­count were in­tended to be re­turned to cus­tomers un­der the board’s over­sight,” the state­ment reads.

“How­ever, as stated by the board, 2018 and 2019 are tran­si­tion years. As we move to­wards a fully in­ter­con­nected elec­tric­ity sys­tem there con­tin­ues to be a great deal of un­cer­tainty, there­fore we un­der­stand both the con­sumer ad­vo­cate, and other in­ter­venors’ re­quests for more in­for­ma­tion.”


Hy­dro Place in St. John’s, head­quar­ters of Nal­cor En­ergy and sub­sidiary New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro.

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