PEI

Public hearings begin on P.E.I. electricity rate hikes

Islanders provided input to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission at a meeting about Maritime Electric's proposed rate increases Thursday night. 

'It's only fair that everybody should be treated the same on the increases'

Islanders were asked to provide input to IRAC at a meeting Thursday night about Maritime Electric's proposed rate increases. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Islanders gave their input to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission at a meeting about Maritime Electric's proposed rate increases Thursday night.

Maritime Electric applied for the increases last December hoping they would be approved and begin in March, but IRAC said it needed more information from the electric utility

We all pay the same service charge, which is not fair to the little guy.— John te Raa

The utility is also asking for billing changes that would make it more difficult for homeowners who use more energy — for example, those who use electric heat, or farms, which are also considered residential customers — to qualify for discounts called second-block pricing. 

About 15 people attended the public hearing, including John te Raa, who used to work in the energy sector. 

"I brought up concerns with the residential rate structure and the discrepancies between the low energy users and the huge energy users," he said.

"We all pay the same service charge, which is not fair to the little guy."

A new proposed rate increase

Maritime Electric is proposing to keep the increase under one per cent a year over a three-year period, said utility spokesperson Kim Griffin. 

'I brought up concerns with the residential rate structure and the discrepancies between the low energy users and the huge energy users,' says John te Raa who attended the public hearing. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Griffin said the utility originally applied for a 3.3 per cent rate increase over three years, but has reduced that to 2.1 per cent. 

"Originally we thought it was going to be around 1.1 per cent [per year]. We resubmitted our sales forecast and our financials and we're able to project that it would be 0.7 per cent [per year]."

"We're trying not to have any rate shock," Griffin said.

Islanders weigh in

Te Raa also said he'd like to see a lower energy rate for residential customers on the Island. 

Maritime Electric spokesperson Kim Griffin says the last few days have 'been very intense.'  (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

"Have a reasonable rate and then if people start going with electric heat and it puts demand on the system — let them pay extra," he said. 

Margaret MacKay is retired and lives on a limited pension, and said she'd like to see second-block billing removed and if the rate increase is approved, for it to be reasonable.

"I think it's only fair that everybody should be treated the same on the increases," she said. 

Presenting its case to IRAC over the last few days has been "very intense," said Griffin. "The whole process has been a bit over 5,000 pages of evidence and information that has been submitted to the commission." 

The utility is aware of the issues customers like MacKay and te Raa are bringing forward, she said. 

"Some people want it [second-block-billing] gone right away," Griffin said. "Our opinion is that we should do it over a number of years and that's what we've presented to the commission."

Customers have until Aug. 14 to provide IRAC with written feedback.

IRAC has not said when the commission expects to announce a final decision on the increases. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Isabella Zavarise is a video journalist with CBC in P.E.I. You can contact her at isabella.zavarise@cbc.ca

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