The P.E.I. Energy Commission released its report to government Friday morning, and it recommends some major changes.

The five-member commission spent 15 months reviewing the province's electricity supply and management systems, as well as holding consultations with Islanders.

It recommends allowing Maritime Electric to continue as the Island's primary electric utility, but with heightened scrutiny of the utility's cost of service, overall performance and future plans.

The commission also said government should begin talks to buy Maritime Electric's generating facilities, leaving the utility to deal with the distribution system — the 575 kilometres of wires and poles and 16 substations that deliver power to customers.

It recommends having a consumer advocate for electricity as well as development within the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission of an independent, qualified three-member panel dedicated to electricity regulation.

New cable 'urgent'

In addition, the report stresses the urgent need to have a new underwater transmission cable to the mainland, saying it should be "installed at the earliest possible date."

The report said depending solely on the two 35-year-old cables that are currently in place would mean the province would have to rely more on oil. That would increase costs to the consumer.

Acquiring federal support, favourable lending market conditions and installing the cable in or along the Confederation Bridge were suggested as ways to mitigate the cost of a new cable.

There is room for more wind power integration and development, but its domestic and export use will be subject to the regional electricity market, said the report.

The idea of community-based wind and other renewable energy projects were supported by the commission, but it said the projects should be "economically sound" and not require taxpayer subsidization.

In the coming weeks, government officials will be meeting with the key players identified in the report to begin planning the structural changes to the island's electricity system.

"The Energy Commission took a thorough look at the current system before making some very detailed and sensible recommendations," said Sheridan in a news release.

"Now that Point Lepreau has returned to full commercial operation, it is time to go forward with implementing the report to ensure Islanders continue to benefit from a long-term energy strategy."