PEI

P.E.I. energy commission announced

A five-member commission has been appointed by the P.E.I. government to examine the province's long-term electricity future and how to stabilize rates.
The energy commission will look at P.E.I.'s long-term electricity future. (CBC)

A five-member commission has been appointed by the P.E.I. government to examine the province's long-term electricity future and how to stabilize rates.

The commission — which includes Mike O'Brien, David Arsenault, Roger King, Gerald Morneau and Richard Hassard — will spend the next year looking at the future of P.E.I.'s electricity costs.

The province has some of the highest electricity rates in the country. Most of the power is purchased from outside resources — largely New Brunswick.

Hassard, one of the five commission members, is the chair of the Wind Energy Institute of Canada in North Cape and also has a history in corporate finance.

"P.E.I. Energy Corp has been working with hydrogen as a potential. There are issues, in my opinion, with regards to the third cable that has to be built or needs to be built," said Hassard.

"There are issues with our dependence upon New Brunswick Power for all of our electricity or virtually all of our electricity today."

Premier Robert Ghiz said the new commission will hold public hearings and every option will be considered.

"Some people say, 'Well, why don't you just take over Maritime Electric?' Well, taking over Maritime Electric's not that easy. 'Well, why don't you just make more wind?' Well, you can't make more wind and the wind doesn't blow all the time," he said.

"'Why don't you just sell things to New Brunswick Power? Why don't you ship gas to Prince Edward Island?' All these things are all options that this commission will look at."

Purchasing Maritime Electric — a wholly-owned subsidiary of Newfoundland-based Fortis Inc. — may be the most controversial and expensive option for the commission to examine.

"In a free marketplace, you have to have a willing seller and a willing buyer. I'm not sure Fortis is a willing seller at this point in time," said Hassard.

"If the right price were put on the table, I'm sure they would consider it.… I don't know that that is an easy option."

The commission has a budget of $200,000 and is expected to produce a report in September 2012.

O'Brien and Arsenault — both accountants — are the co-chairs of the commission. King is the former chair of the P.E.I.'s Senior Citizens' Federation's subcommittee on energy matters and Morneau has worked as a construction manager on private sector projects such as the James Bay Hydroelectric Power Project.