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Getting a grip on power

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Nov 29/04) - Last week, during the Baffin mayors meeting, Panniqtuuq Mayor Hezakiah Oshutapik told the out-going president of the Qulliq Energy Corp. (QEC) Simon Merkosak that he needed more information about power rates. If bills were going up, why weren't his people informed about it? asked Oshutapik.

Oshutapik's main concern was that the QEC and the Utilities Rate Review Council (URRC) tour of communities wasn't even coming to Panniqtuuq.

How can my people respond? said Oshutapik.

Mayor Joe Arlooktoo from Kimmirut addressed the QEC panel, too.

"We don't know the reasoning behind the increase," he said. "If I were the minister, I would make sure that the same rate structure was being used for everyone."

Mayor Elijah Evaloarjuk from Iglulik then spoke up and asked the QEC, "Why didn't we do this before? Why did it take so long?"

"Do I have to answer that?" asked Merkosak, with a laugh.

The room then erupted into laughter before the QEC continued with its power point presentation.

The biggest challenge to the QEC, the GN and anyone else concerned about energy use in Nunavut is that people don't seem to care.

Even now, people are still only slightly aware of what is happening regarding power.

Utilities Rate Review Council and QEC held public meetings about the rate change in Iqaluit on Friday, Nov. 5. Businesses had their say, and in an interview afterwards Adamee Itorcheak, owner of Nunanet Internet Services, said he didn't care either way.

Itorcheak said if anything, he supported an increase now if it meant his children and grandchildren would not be saddled with major power bills in the future.

Itorcheak also noted how few Inuit were in the audience for the public meeting.

Itorcheak talked at length about alternative energy and has no qualms about damming the Sylvia Grinnell river or using wind power.

The GN heavily subsidizes power to the point where few people actually feel the cost.

The GN subsidizes housing support customers to the tune of $9 million a year.

The government also spends $5 million a year subsidizing territorial support customers.

But Art Quinn, general manager of the Iglulik Co-op, is well aware of the power rate and the impact an increase will have. Under the proposed rate increase, Quinn figured out his new electricity bill will be $110,000 a year.

Quinn made no bones about who will feel the effect. "It's going to affect prices," said Quinn. "Customers are going to get hit."

Chesterfield Inlet is a community where power rate will go down under the proposed rate. Even so, Brad Amirault, general manager of the Pitsiulak Co-op, is still fuming when he looks at his power bill.

"There is a basic charge of $40. If I use zero power, I pay $40 a month. If I use $50 worth of power, I pay $50 on top of the basic charge. I think it's ridiculous. To me it's highway robbery. They are the only game in town."

The QEC needs $77.2 million a year to keep operating. Currently it takes in $19 million less than that.

It doesn't help matters that since 1999, the Nunavut Power Corp (now the QEC) mismanaged its finances prompting a scathing review from auditor general Sheila Fraser.

The board that was in power at the time of the mismanagement is no longer there.

QEC say they have to change the way they charge users to cut back the deficit.

Everyone in Nunavut will be asked to pay the same rate based on Nunavut's average operating and building or expansion costs under the territorial plan.

Their proposed plan is a territorial-rate plan. It is under review by the URRC.

Ed Picco, the newly appointed Energy Minister, is expected to give the final approval in a few months.

Exactly what the power rate is going to be is now in his hands.

On Nov. 18, Picco said if he approves an increase "we won't be doing it on the backs of homeowners and we won't be doing it on the backs of the residents of Nunavut. There has to be a balance."

There was a proposed increase in 2003 while he was presiding over what was then the Nunavut Power Corp., but Picco said he was told by many groups, including the Nunavut Association of Municipalities and chambers of commerce, to freeze the rates, which he did, because at the time there was only one set of financial statements.

There are now two sets and a third is expected to be released with the next few weeks, said Picco.


Understanding your power bill is going to get a whole lot easier.

Go to www.nunavutpower.com for an example (click on Nunavut Power then customer service.)

The new power bill is going to appear in a month with step by step how-to-understand your power bill instructions in English, French, Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun on the back.

Each box has a number inside it. The numbers correspond with instructions on the back telling you exactly what that cost is.

Currently your bill tells you: Residential territorial rate, territorial subsidy and current charges.

Fuel purchases/requirements

0/00 Total fuel purchases for Nunavut in 2004 (electricity, heating, transportation): 165 million litres.

0/00 Total fuel purchase for electricity production in all 25 communities: 39 million litres.

0/00 Estimated fuel requirement for electricity production in Iqaluit in 2004: 13 million litres.

Housing subsidizes

0/00 The GN subsidizes housing support customers $9 million a year (3,561 housing support customers).

0/00Territorial support customers -- 3,123 of them -- receive $5 million in GN subsidy a year.

0/00Residential non-government: 424 customers in total.

These customer's include private housing owned by business staff housing. If they register in customers name they'd get territorial support.

If company registers in their name and company pays they pay, regular residential rate -- and get no territorial support.

0/00 There are two subsidies. One is for housing/social support customers. The government subsidizes housing customers power rate to six cents kilowatt hour unlimited consumption.

The second subsidy is a territorial subsidy of 15.22 cents per kilowatt hour up to 700 kwh. Anything over and above is regular price, as noted in the general rate application.

proposed rate impact:

Residential rate by community:

Proposed rate per kWh: 0.5333 cents

Iqaluit: 68.9 per cent increase

Rankin Inlet: 62.5 per cent

Iglulik: 59.4 per cent

Panniqtuuq: 49.1 per cent

Cape Dorset: 42.6 per cent

Baker Lake: 40.5 per cent

Cambridge Bay: 28.1 per cent

Clyde River: 23.8 per cent

Arviat: 22.3 per cent

Qikiqtarjuaq: 19.7 per cent

Sanikiluaq: 17.0 per cent

Repulse Bay: 12.6 per cent

Arctic Bay: 8.5 per cent

Hall Beach: 5.8 per cent

Gjoa Haven: 5.4 per cent

Pond Inlet: 2.9 per cent

Rate decrease will happen

(if proposed rate goes ahead)

in the following communities:

Kugluktuk: 0.3 per cent

Coral Harbour: 0.3 per cent

Grise Fiord: 2.7 per cent

Chesterfield Inlet: 3.6 per cent

Taloyoak: 6.6 per cent

Resolute Bay: 8.1 per cent

Kugaaruk: 19.1 per cent

Whale Cove: 26.5 per cent

Kimmirut: 27.4 per cent