Advertisement.

Economy

Residents consulted over back-to-back rate increases of up to 10%


The independent panel that approves NWT power rates will hold a public consultation over the power corporation’s request for back-to-back increases of up to 10 percent in some communities.

NTPC is seeking significant increases for people in Fort Smith and Fort Resolution, where rates would rise by 20.78 percent over two years. The power corp says those communities currently pay the territory’s lowest rates.

Increases that work out to 3.5 percent over two years are sought in Norman Wells, Behchokǫ̀, Dettah and the 20 NWT communities that rely on diesel, natural gas or liquefied natural gas.

Advertisement.

Yellowknife and Hay River have power delivered by Northland Utilities, not NTPC. NTPC says its proposal would see rates go up by 3.5 percent over two years in Yellowknife and 3.7 percent in Hay River, but Northland Utilities could also make its own application to change rates.

An interim increase of 2.5 percent for many residents already took place on May 1. A body named the Public Utilities Board holds responsibility for deciding whether the power corporation’s full request – called a general rate application, an adjustment in prices that normally happens every few years – will be granted or not.

The towns of Hay River and Fort Smith are among those opposing the scale of the requested shift in pricing.

Frieda Martselos, the MLA who represents Fort Smith, told the legislature in May: “Attempting to single out the Taltson zone [Fort Smith and Fort Resolution] with a 10-percent increase in both years is not OK.”

In its submission to the Public Utilities Board, the power corporation said higher power rates are needed because not enough revenue is coming in to meet the cost of generating electricity while maintaining ageing infrastructure and, where possible, replacing it.

Advertisement.

Consultation dates

The Public Utilities Board last week said five towns – Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, Inuvik and Norman Wells – will be given time on September 8 to quiz the power corporation at a technical hearing.

That hearing will be followed by a public consultation held over two days at Yellowknife’s Tree of Peace Friendship Centre.

The consultation will run from 7pm to 9:30pm on Thursday, September 8 and from 9am to 12:30pm on Friday, September 9.

“Interested parties may also participate from their individual homes or business from anywhere in the NWT,” the board stated, adding that “satellite locations” will be available in Fort Smith, Norman Wells and Inuvik for people to gather and take part in those communities.

Any member of the public who registers by Tuesday, September 6 will have up to 10 minutes to ask questions of an NWT Power Corporation panel and present their views on the application to the board.

Anyone wishing to participate is asked to register via the power corporation’s website rather than the Public Utilities Board’s website. The board stated copies of a registration form for the event could be found on the power corporation’s website but did not link to the form, only to the website’s homepage, where the form could not be found. If the form exists on the power corporation’s website, Cabin Radio could not find it.

The board states residents can also call (867) 872-5259 to register or do so by email.

Details of the public consultation had not been circulated to media as of Monday evening but were instead discovered in a PDF on the board’s website dated August 25. The PDF did, however, appear to include a notice formatted for newspapers, and within the PDF the board tells NTPC to publish the notice in newspapers as soon as possible.

The board’s webpage for NTPC’s rate application consists of a range of documents related to the application – presented in what appears to be random order – with no readily accessed plain-language summary of the application, timeline of events, or explanation of opportunities for the public to participate.

To date, all public communication regarding the rate application has come not from the board but the power corporation, which has occasionally left out important information. (As an example, a May news release from NTPC announcing that the Public Utilities Board had “approved an interim rate increase” failed to declare that the board had not, in fact, approved the increase NTPC sought but a lower increase, a fact NTPC confirmed when asked.)

The board – consisting of a chair and four members, all part-time, plus a secretary – receives just under half a million dollars in annual funding for its operations. Its budget also pays for legal counsel and technical expertise to understand complex files. “No changes are contemplated as the arrangement is cost-effective,” the board stated in its last annual report.

Advertisement.