13% power rate hike in N.W.T. 'crazy,' says Yellowknifer
'I don't know how people are gonna afford to live here anymore,' says Ed Dithurbide
People across the Northwest Territories are not too happy about a possible 13 per cent increase in power rates.
The territory's residents are already facing the highest power bills in the country — with an average cost of $8.39 a day, more than double the national average of just under $4 a day.
One of the driest summers in decades has left water levels at the Snare Lake Hydro Facility, about 140 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife, at their lowest recorded levels ever. That's forced the Northwest Territories Power Corporation to increase their use of diesel generators to 25 per cent, adding an expected $20 million to the corporation's operating costs over the next ten months. Coulter says that's the cost of an anticipated additional 16 million litres of diesel that will be required in that time period.
"I think it's crazy,” says Ed Dithurbide, who lives in Yellowknife.
"Our power bills are high enough, really, They're just bleeding everybody dry. It's crazy. We're paying $500 and $600 now for a power bill… A 13 per cent increase? I don't know how people are gonna afford to live here anymore.”
NTPC has applied to the public utilities board for an emergency rider that could increase the rate by 13% for the next two years.
The current base rate is just over 27 cents per kilowatt hour; they're asking for an additional 3.7 cents per kilowatt hour.
Hydroelectric dams provide 75 per cent of the territory's power.
Pam Coulter, a spokesperson for the power corporation, says the corporation is also asking the water board to change the water level regulations that they follow.
The corporation uses water throughout the year to generate power on the Snare system. Coulter says the rider covers both the additional usage this past summer, as well as the anticipated usage for the next ten months. An additional 16 million litres of diesel is expected to be used, at a cost of $20 million.
That would allow them to use more hydroelectric power and less diesel-generated power.
She says there are environmental concerns associated with the changes.
Coulter says if the board approves the application, people could see this increase on their power bill as early as next month.
Water levels down
Water levels across the territory are lower than usual.
According to the Water Survey of Canada, the Mackenzie River near Fort Simpson is one metre lower than it was this time last year.
The Liard River is even lower, down nearly 25 per cent from last year's level.