Hydro wants 7.9% annual rate hike to continue to 2024

Manitoba Hydro says it needs another two years of nearly eight per cent rate hikes to get back on track.

Hydro request would increase $1,000 bill to nearly $1,600 by 2023-24

Manitoba Hydro's CEO says the Crown corporation will seek rate increases of 7.9 per cent each year until 2024. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

Manitoba Hydro says it needs another two years of nearly eight per cent rate hikes to get back on track.

In a letter to the Public Utilities Board last week, the Crown corporation said it now projects additional rate increases of 7.9 per cent per year until 2023-24, and an increase of 4.54 per cent the following year.

If allowed, the successive increases would raise current rates by close to 60 per cent by 2023-24, which means a $1,000 Hydro bill would reach almost $1,600 in 2023-24, and it would hit $1,650 the following year.

The Crown corporation had already indicated it would seek annual increases of 7.9 per cent until 2021-22.

Manitoba Hydro wanted to impose a 7.9% increase in 2017-18, but the Public Utilities Board only allowed an increase of 3.36 per cent, which came into effect Aug. 1. The Public Utilities Board of Manitoba regulates rates for a number of public utilities in the province.

In the letter dated Sept. 5, Hydro CEO Kelvin Shepherd said the increases are necessary because Manitoba Hydro wasn't allowed the 7.9 per cent increase it requested this year.

"Manitoba Hydro is committed to restoring its financial health over a 10-year period, as to do so is in the long-term interests of its ratepayers," Shepherd wrote.

Manitoba Hydro's debt rose $1.9 billion this year because of expenditures related to major projects in the province's north.

In its report for the fiscal year ending on March 31, the provincial Crown corporation pegged its long-term debt at $16.1 billion, up from $14.2 billion at the same time in 2016.

Construction of the Keeyask hydroelectric development on the Nelson River and the Bipole III transmission line are the main reasons for the increasing debt, the report said.

Public Utilities Board hearings for the general rate application are set to begin in December.

Hydro has filed responses to 1,547 information requests from the PUB and six intervenor groups, including Winnipeg Harvest, the Consumers Association of Canada and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, in the initial round of the rate increase application process, the letter said.

"The costs of their intervention are ultimately borne by Manitoba Hydro's customers," Shepherd wrote, because the Crown corporation must cover their costs. Intervenors present information to the Public Utilities Board that they say is relevant to the application for a rate change.

Shepherd said Hydro acknowledges the importance of strong regulatory oversight but ratepayers bear 100 per cent of the costs of the regulatory process.

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with files from Bartley Kives