Pre­pare for higher power bills

NDP wants to talk relief for ratepay­ers

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - NEWS - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK

Costs have bal­looned on the prov­ince’s land­mark Lower Churchill Project, New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro’s cap­i­tal bud­gets have sky­rock­eted and New­found­land Power claims greater de­mand on its op­er­a­tions.

It all adds up to higher power bills ahead. But how much higher? When? New­found­land Power can’t say. “As we un­der­stand it, the Muskrat Falls project will cost about $9 bil­lion upon com­ple­tion. This is ap­prox­i­mately three times the value of the cur­rent in­vest­ment in the prov­ince’s elec­tric­ity sys­tem (New­found­land Power and New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro com­bined),” stated Karen McCarthy, New­found­land Power’s di­rec­tor of cus­tomer and cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in an emailed re­sponse to ques­tions.

“This will then mean a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in cus­tomer elec­tric­ity rates in the fu­ture, some­thing which con­cerns New­found­land Power con­sid­er­ably.” When sanc­tioned in 2012, the project was es­ti­mated at $6.2-bil­lion but now stands on the books at $7.65-bil­lion. An­other up­date is ex­pected later this year.

It is not the only fac­tor in rates. In doc­u­ments on file with the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board, from fall 2015, Nal­cor sug­gested the all-in cost for the av­er­age res­i­den­tial cus­tomer by 2020 would be 19.8 cents per k Wh —a 53 per cent in­crease from cur­rent rates.

The es­ti­mated fig­ure in­cludes a 15 per cent HST. The Lib­er­als waved off that tax in­crease, but have also not stood firm in re­lated mes­sag­ing since.

As for other av­enues of relief, Premier Dwight Ball has man­dated Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Siob­han Coady to see ex­cess power from the Muskrat Falls project sold and the rev­enues ap­plied, like a salve, to help ratepay­ers. But how much money might rea­son­ably be ex­pected through the sales? How will it be dis­trib­uted ( for ex­am­ple, how much to com­mer­cial ver­sus res­i­den­tial ratepay­ers)?

Con­sumer Ad­vo­cate Tom John­son said he has not been in­volved in any de­tailed dis­cus­sions around ap­ply­ing rev­enues from power sales. But he sug­gested peo­ple can ex­pect more cer­tainty on their power costs with time.

TC Me­dia reached out to gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions March 23 re­gard­ing this story. The fol­low­ing state­ment was re­ceived shortly af­ter 4:30 p.m. Mon­day, at­trib­uted to Min­is­ter Coady:

“The Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board is re­spon­si­ble for the reg­u­la­tion of elec­tric util­i­ties in our prov­ince to en­sure that the rates charged are just and rea­son­able. Fi­nal elec­tric­ity rates af­ter Muskrat Falls would be set by the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers of Pub­lic Util­i­ties through a fu­ture general rate ap­pli­ca­tion. As part of gov­ern­ment’s man­date, we are com­mit­ted to sell­ing sur­plus power gen­er­ated from Muskrat Falls and to use that rev­enue to mit­i­gate in­creases in elec­tric­ity rates. Af­ter the rate ap­pli­ca­tion has been filed, gov­ern­ment will re­view the pro­posed rates and de­ter­mine the level of mit­i­ga­tion re­quired. ”

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