Unplugging devices, switching to low energy light bulbs, turning off breakers — northerners are doing whatever they can to save money on what many say are outrageous power bills.

"I have an almost three-year-old son and I'm actually still in my maternity clothes because I can't afford to go buy clothes," said Jenette Abbott, one of about 10 Yellowknifers who attended public hearings this week into a proposed rate hike. 

The Public Utilities Board held hearings all this week in Yellowknife to discuss a plan by the Northwest Territories Power Corporation to increase rates by 12.8 per cent over three years. 

Residential customers in the N.W.T. have seen rates increase twice in the past year: 4.8 per cent last August, and another four per cent this April. The rate application being examined this week asks for another four per cent increase next year.

Jason Perrino

Jason Perrino, owner of Yellowknife bar and restaurant Twist and Shout at the public utilities board rate hike hearing July 13, 2017. (Randall McKenzie)

Abbott's last bill was just over $300 and in the winter is over $600 per month. That's despite using a clothesline instead of a dryer, turning off breakers in rooms that don't need lights and unplugging appliances. 

She said the hefty expense means she can't afford to put her kids in more than one sport. 

According to the N.W.T. Power Corporation, the proposed rate hike will increase the average resident's power bill by about $7 a month.

"I pay thousands of dollars per month, not hundreds of dollars," said Jason Perrino, owner of the Yellowknife restaurant and bar Twist and Shout. "The increase for me wouldn't be $7, it would be in the hundreds of dollars."

Perrino said he spends more than a $100 a day on power for his home and business, "which is the same price as a crack habit." 

Gordon Van Tighem

Gordan Van Tighem, chairman of the public utilities board at the rate hike hearing, July 13, 2017. (Randall McKenzie)

And he has few options to budget for a higher bill. 

"Fire some people, work more hours, stay open longer, increase my prices, reduce my portions," said Perrino. "Do a bunch of things that we are already doing today to stay afloat and survive."

The power corporation has said the increases are necessary due to declining power sales, the costs of inflation, the increasing costs for water licensing and monitoring, and the costs associated with fixing aging infrastructure.

"Any decision will have to be very, very, very, thoroughly justified." said Gordon Van Tighem, the utilities board chair.  

The board hopes to have ruling on whether they will raise rates by the end of September.