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NTPC wants new rate increase to cover high diesel costs

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The NWT Power Corporation has asked for an increase on power rates to cover what it says are unexpectedly high diesel costs.

Requests for higher rates go to an independent panel called the Public Utilities Board, which will scrutinize the power corporation's case and either allow or reject the increase.

The power corporation says the increase it wants would, on average, drive up a typical residential customer's bill by 2.5 percent – or $8 per month.

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That increase is known as a collection rider. NTPC's rates are usually set in what is called a general rate application, every few years – but it can make requests for riders like this one if circumstances change in between general rate applications.

"NTPC has applied to the Public Utilities Board for a collection rider as the result
of diesel prices continuing to be higher than forecast when rates were being set during
the most recent general rate application," said the power corporation in a statement.

"The price of diesel is currently $0.08 to $0.09 more, per litre, than the cost used to calculate rates."

The increase would apply for a three-year period. That means the same, typical customer given in NTPC's example would pay an extra $288 over the three years.

Without the increase, the power corporation says a fund used to protect customers from even larger rate increases – such as when fuel prices fluctuate dramatically – will begin to dry up.

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"Power rates play a significant role in the cost of living in the North," read remarks from the power corporation's interim president, Paul Grant, issued in a statement.

"This is why we are asking the Public Utilities Board for approval to keep this rate rider in place for three years, which will reduce the monthly impact on our customers."

Two new diesel generators arrived in Yellowknife last week, almost two years behind schedule, following difficulties between NTPC and a supplier.

The power corporation is, ultimately, owned by the territorial government.

The perceived frequency of its applications for rate increases has become a common source of complaint among NWT residents, for whom the cost of power is several times higher than residents of most other Canadian jurisdictions.