Yellowknife Inn

NNSL photo/graphic


 Front Page
 News Desk
 News Briefs
 News Summaries
 Arctic arts
 Readers comment
 Find a job
 Market reports
 Handy Links
 Best of Bush
 Visitors guides
 Feature Issues
 Today's weather
 Leave a message



. NNSL Logo
Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Yellowknife electricity rates may go up: report

Charlotte Hilling
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, November 11, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Power bills in the city could be on the rise if recommendations suggested by an electricity review panel go ahead.

Energy Facts
  • Yellowknifers currently charged 20.77 cents/kwh
  • Before subsidies, Colville Lake is charged 230.27 cents/kwh
  • 73 per cent of overall residential usage in thermal communities is subsidized to some degree
  • From 2007 to 2008, 75 per cent of power outages occurred in thermal communities
  • The cost of running the NWT power system from 2007 to 2008 was about $100 million

The review, titled Creating a brighter future: A review of electricity regulation, rates and subsidy programs in the Northwest Territories, was tabled by Bob McLeod, minister responsible for Energy Initiatives, in the legislative assembly last week.

Commissioned by the Ministerial Energy Co-ordinating Committee, the review makes 39 recommendations. One suggests consolidating the territory's 33 different electricity rates into a three-rate system: the Thermal Zone, Taltson Hydro Zone and the Snare Hydro Zone, which encompasses Yellowknife.

In order for a flat thermal zone rate to occur, the two hydro zones, Taltson and Snare will have to absorb some of the costs, meaning electricity rates in Yellowknife would increase.

Mark Cleveland, a member of the review team, said it was too soon to tell how much the cost of electricity would have to go up.

"You really have to decide what your structure is going to look like and how your costs are going to be allocated before that happens, before you can say what the numbers are," he said.

The thermal zone will homogenize the electricity rates for all the communities that use natural gas and diesel - which currently results in extremely high power bills - bringing them down to Inuvik's current rate of around $0.525 kilowatts per hour.

"As it currently stands there are 33 different zones across the territory, and we don't think that that appropriately shares the risk and reward across the system as a whole," said Cleveland.

"It means that if there's anything that happens at the individual community level, there's the potential for it to effect the rates in that community. So that mean rates can be quite volatile."

Cleveland said the report looked at how to reduce the cost to the government in the delivery of energy, distributing it reliably and fairly, and ensuring affordability. In order to make it possible for people in thermal communities to afford power, the government runs the Territorial Power Subsidy Program.

The report notes the cost of the subsidy program went from $4.4 million in 2000 to $9.5 million for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. The review team talked with over 350 people during around 50 meetings throughout the territories.

"If you talk to people across the territories, they would like to have cheaper power that's reliable and available when they want it," said Cleveland. "In terms of how to get there, there's not a lot of agreement."

McLeod said it was too soon to tell if the three zone system would be taken up by the territory.

"The implementation of those will take some time, so it's too early for us to talk about specific recommendations," he said. "Certainly we welcome the report and believe that it has given us excellent material for consideration."

He said the government intends to have a detailed response to the review, and implementation plan by March 2010.

"It's an opportunity to bring about real change to the system and it's really important that we get it right," he said.

Tomorrow the review panel is expected to provide details about the report.

We welcome your opinions on this story. Click to e-mail a letter to the editor.