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Sahtu MLA angry about rate hike

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 18/06) - Norman Yakeleya, Sahtu MLA, called the power corporation's request for a rate increase greedy and said it would increase the cost of living in remote communities beyond the expected $20 hike in customers' monthly bills.

"The power corporation's strategy is a little like Ebenezer Scrooge," said Yakeleya of the timing of the NWT Power Corporation's announcement during the busy Christmas season. "You really have to question why it went to the Public Utilities Board (PUB) at this time and to some it may seem that this is how they planned it."

The power corporation hopes to have an interim rate increase of between $12 and $13 a month approved by the Public Utilities Board in January. Those interested in participating in this process must file written information requests with the board by Dec. 15. The power corporation is expected to respond to these requests by Dec. 22, and then written arguments against the rate increase are due by Dec. 28.

The board will likely come to a decision after Jan. 4, the deadline for the power corporation's "replies to argument."

Despite a marginal increase in 2006 annual profits - $7.2 million - the power corporation wants to increase the cost of electricity by about 10 per cent.

Rising fuel prices and wages in a "tight labour market" are among the power corporation's reasons for its application.

The current cost of electricity for residential customers is 18.22 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Due to a territorial subsidy, all residents of the NWT pay the same rate as customers in Yellowknife for the first 700kWh per month. If the board approves the rate increase, customers will pay slightly less than 20 cents/kWh.

Businesses and community government offices are subsidized up to 100kWh after which they must pay the full rate, which in remote communities served by fuel-run generators is very high. For example, it costs more than $2 to produce a kWh of power in Colville Lake, but only 13 cents in Fort Smith.

"They should look at cutting costs in their own ranks, like last year they gave themselves more than $500,000 in bonuses," said Yakeleya.