SaskPower rates are likely on the way up.
In an announcement Tuesday, the crown corporation said it is making an application to the Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel to raise rates by five per cent. That would mean another $6 a month for an average customer.
“We know rate increases are not something people enjoy. We’re doing what we can to minimize the impact, focusing on restraint and optimization here at SaskPower,” said CEO Mike Marsh.
Power rates have gone up at least once a year since 2013. As of Jan. 1, 2017, residential customers were paying an average of $22.76 more a month than in 2012.
For seven years in a row, the province has set records for the amount of power needed at one time according to Marsh, adding two power records for peak summer usage were set in August.
“The reality is, as the system continues to grow in the province, despite the economic slowdown we’re seeing continual growth on the electricity side, the continual increase in customers being connected to the grid,” he said.
Five per cent equates to another $124 million a year for the crown.
Capital investment is anticipated to top $1 billion in 2017-18. That includes building and replacing new power poles and transmission lines. Major projects are also in the works over the next several years such as the Regina Bypass, the Pasqua to Swift Current transmission line and the Chinook Power Station.
If SaskPower gets its way, the increase will come into effect March 1, 2018. It has to be approved by both the review panel and the provincial government.
In terms of what kind of impact this proposal may have on Saskatoon Light and Power, Marsh said that company buys its power from the crown and he believes in the past, any increases for that company’s customers have been similar to that of SaskPower’s.
Marsh concedes they will try and keep increases to once per year, what he called moderate increases over the next few years, when necessary.
Marsh was also asked about the recent meter box fires and if they contributed to the reason for the rate increase.
“There’s nothing with respect to the meter fires that are part of this rate application at all,” he insisted.
He estimated the cost of the meter fires to date is in excess of $1 million. That number will grow as more inspections and fixes are made. More than 5,000 homes have been checked said Marsh with somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1,000 remaining.
SaskPower has chosen to pay for any costs incurred related to the fires.