URRC starts work on power rate proposal
“We want everyone… to get a chance to have their say”
For Nunavut’s power rate watchdog, the Utility Rates Review Council, the clock is already ticking.
The URRC’s job between now and December 29 will be to study the Nunavut Power Corporation’s 297-page rate-hike application, hold a grueling set of public meetings in 12 communities, and then write up its recommendations and give them to Nunavut’s energy minister, David Simailak.
That tight schedule is set out in in a territorial law called the Utilities Rates Review Council Act, which the legislative assembly passed in 2001.
“We’re on a time-line that is all laid out in the legislation,” said Ray Mercer of Rankin Inlet, the URRC’s chair.
The five-person council will kick off its 20-day community tour next week in Iqaluit, where they will hold public hearings on Nov. 4 and 5.
As of Nunatsiaq News’ press time, officials were still scrambling to find a place in Iqaluit to hold the hearings, but Mercer said they’re likely to be held in either the Frobisher Inn or the Navigator Inn.
Between Nov. 8 to Nov. 24, the council will try to visit Igloolik, Arctic Bay, Grise Fiord, Pond Inlet, Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Baker Lake, Rankin Inlet, Arviat, and Coral Harbour.
In each community, the council will meet in the afternoons with hamlet council representatives and local businesses. In the evenings, they’ll hold public hearings where anyone can step up to the microphones and have their say.
Mercer said at least two or three people from the Nunavut Power Corporation will be on hand to explain their rate proposal and answer questions.
“We want everyone, the homeowners, the ratepayers, the small business people, to get a chance to have their say,” Mercer said.
Kenn Harper, the owner of Iqaluit’s Arctic Venture’s store, said he hopes “hundreds of people” come out to the Iqaluit meetings to oppose the power corporation’s territorial-wide rate proposal.
The NPC’s proposed new commercial rate for all of Nunavut would impose a 92 per cent price increase upon Iqaluit businesses.
Their proposed new residential rate for Iqaluit, 53.333 cents a kilowatt-hour, up from 31.58 cents a kilowatt-hour, would impose a 59.2-per-cent price increase on Iqaluit homeowners.
“This will be devastating to many homeowners who struggle with high mortage costs, high land lease costs, increasing property taxes, high water and sewer rates, and already higher fuel costs,” Harper said.
Most homeowners, however, are partially subsidized by the GN. They pay only 15.222 cents for the first 700 kilowatt-hours consumed each month, and the full rate for any power consumed in excess of that amount.
Social housing tenants – about 50 per cent of Nunavut residents – pay only 6 cents a kilowatt-hour, plus an $18 service charge each month.
Glenn Cousins, president of the Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce, said last week that the organization is likely to make a submission when the URRC meets in Iqaluit Nov. 4 and 5.
Peter Groening of Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. said ACL will also make a submission on behalf of all Nunavut co-operatives, but also said the organization urges every individual co-op to make their own submissions.
The Northwest Company, which owns Northern stores in nearly all communities is likely to make a submission too.
Mercer said that after the URRC submits its recommendations to Simailak, the minister is free to accept them or change them as he sees fit. Simailak must announce his decision within 30 days of receiving the URRC’s report.