Customers of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation will still be asked to part-fund repairs to the North Slave’s hydro system, despite almost $25 million in new government funding.

Last week, the federal and territorial governments announced $24.6 million for upgrades to the Snare Forks hydro facility.

The governments said that money would, in part, help ensure there are no further unscheduled shutdowns – like one which occurred in October after a bearing failure.

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At the time of the failure, the power corporation (NTPC) said the incident would take a generator offline for “several months,” adding the impact on the electricity rates you pay was “unknown.”

After the new funding was announced, Cabin Radio asked NTPC if this meant ratepayers were no longer in danger of having to cover the cost of repairs at Snare Forks.

In response, Paul Grant – the power corporation’s director of corporate planning – said customers would still be paying a quarter of the repair bill’s cost, despite the governments’ new contribution.

“As you may know, we are still assessing the condition of the Snare Forks generator,” Grant wrote in an email, adding the unit had been due for refurbishment in the near future.

“With the announced federal funding,” he continued, “our ratepayers avoid 75 percent of the refurbishment costs from being recovered through rates.”

Grant said the fact government funding will cover 75 percent of the repair bill should instead be seen as “great news” for both the corporation and its ratepayers.

The power corporation did not respond to a follow-up question asking for an indication of the anticipated total cost of repairs and refurbishment.

Technicians at work

Wally Schumann, the NWT’s infrastructure minister, confirmed to Cabin Radio ratepayers will be expected to absorb some of the repair costs.

“The technicians are in there right now, doing the overhaul,” said Schumann. “Ratepayers in the region will be on the hook for some of it, I would suspect – for the 25 percent.

“It’s up to the Public Utilities Board at the end of the day. They make the final decision. The federal funding is going to help significantly lower the cost of living for us, anyway.”

October’s loss of a Snare Forks unit, capable of generating 4.3 MW of power, removed around 15 percent of the North Slave hydro system’s total generating capacity.

NTPC said it had enough spare capacity to ensure electricity supply remained reliable.

NTPC generates power for the entire territory and is also the distributor to many communities, though Yellowknife and Hay River are presently served by a different distributor in Northland Utilities.

Ordinarily, Northland would be expected to pass on any cost increases to consumers.