N.W.T. power corporation ending power throttling during COVID-19 pandemic
Company says it realizes customers may have issues paying bills with office closures
The Northwest Territories Power Corporation is removing all power limiting technology to ensure customers "don't suffer undue hardship" during the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic.
In a press release, the power corporation says it will be removing all limiters "as quickly as practical." It uses limiters to restrict the flow of electricity to residences where payment is more than 28 days late, rather than disconnecting them.
The corporation has announced that it will close customer service offices in Inuvik, Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, Yellowknife and Hay River, effective immediately. It says it knows this will make it more difficult for customers to discuss deferring payments or entering flexible payment plans.
"We are all facing an unprecedented situation that will offer new and unexpected challenges," the release says.
Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson had called for the power corporation to remove limiters until June in the Legislative Assembly on Monday.
"It's coming. I'm really worried about our communities, our elders, people that we represent in our communities," he said of COVID-19.
At the time, Shane Thompson, minister responsible for the power corporation, responded that he could not commit to that, but did say limiters would be removed in communities where COVID-19 is present.
As of Tuesday, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory.
Jacobson has also previously criticized the power corporation's use of limiters, which he said are "life-threatening" to constituents in his region, where temperatures can drop to -50 C in the winter.
The power corporation says customers can pay their bills online, through their bank, by phone, at their local Co-op or Northern Store, or by mailing payments to their local regional office or the power corporation's main office.
The corporation is also encouraging customers to speak to a service representative to set up a payment plan to ensure their power is not impacted in the future. It also notes the territory's income assistance program may be able to help those who are having difficulty paying their bills.
The power corporation also says its workers may have challenges responding as quickly as usual to service disruptions due to restrictions. It has suspended all business travel outside the territory, is limiting duty travel within the territory and projects requiring travel, and is not allowing contractors from outside of Canada onto its sites.