PUB decision pending
Community clusters for diesel rates decision soon

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 10/97) - The NWT Power Corporation wants to group 44 diesel-powered communities into 10 billing zones.

Details of the places were on the table Wednesday at an NWT Public Utilities Board hearing in Yellowknife. A decision is still pending.

The corporation hopes that by grouping communities with similar generating capacity, both sales revenues and rates can be stabilized.

The groupings are based on the size of power generation and revenues, says Bill Braden, director of corporate development for the NWT Power Corp.

It would have the long-term benefit of stabilizing costs across a larger community base and would avoid sharp rate increases in each community when new engines or other investments are needed, according to corporation president Leon Courneya in a press release.

Critics of the plan, however, fear it could result in a community paying more than the service is worth.

Hamlet intervenors, for example, say the preferred approach chosen by the company is "unfair and inequitable." They also argue that in some cases, the communities are placed in a position of subsidizing other, smaller communities for at least the next 10 years.

For example, if group diesel rates go ahead, Coral Harbour's domestic government and non-government customers' current rate of 45.57 cents per kilowatt-hour could rise by about 30 per cent.

The new rate schedules could take effect across the NWT within two or three months if the Public Utilities Board rules in the corporation's favor.

Nine communities have raised objections to the proposed new diesel-zone rate, including Cape Dorset, Coral Harbour, Jean Marie River, Repulse Bay, Chesterfield Inlet, Ft. Liard, Pangnirtung, Aklavik and Fort Simpson.

The mayor of Fort Simpson and senior administrative officers for Coral Harbour and Ft. Liard argued against the zone proposal at the recent public utilities board hearing in Yellowknife last week.

The board has indicated it will take concluding arguments in written form until March 26 on the issue.

As a regulated utility, the power corporation is required to file applications every four years for public review of its costs and rates.

Base rates were last set in 1992.