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Northland still wants to talk
Utility company hopes GNWT will eventually discuss co-operating on electrical generation and distribution

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Saturday, August 6, 2016

On June 16, Northland Utilities (NWT) Ltd. took its case against what it describes as expropriation by the GNWT to the legislative assembly's priorities and planning committee of regular MLAs.

NNSL photo/graphic

Doug Tenney: the vice-president for Northern development with ATCO Electric, the parent company of Northland Utilities (NWT) Ltd, is asking MLAs to stop the forced sale of their infrastructure. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Doug Tenney, vice-president for Northern development with ATCO Electric, the parent company of Northland Utilities (NWT) Ltd., asked the MLAs to try to stop its "expropriation" in Hay River.

Northland wants a forced sale of its power system in Hay River to the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) delayed until potential partnership models are evaluated.

The Town of Hay River has decided to give its electrical franchise to NTPC in hopes that it can obtain cheaper power.

Tenney said he is not losing hope that discussions can somehow be initiated.

"We obviously have hope because we're pretty certain that our proposal is the right way forward," he said. "So we're always optimistic that they'll reach out and contact us, but to date nothing like that has happened."

Tenney argued that discussions between Northland and the GNWT would be timely because the government plans to launch consultations on a new energy strategy.

Andrew Livingstone, the acting director of cabinet communications with the Department of the Executive, said the GNWT is not planning to expropriate Northland Utilities assets in Hay River.

"The Town of Hay River ran a public, competitive process to award the franchise for electrical distribution to residents as provided for in the Cities, Towns and Villages (CTV) Act," he said in an e-mailed statement to The Hub. "As provided for in the CTV Act, the Town of Hay River is negotiating with NUL to purchase assets associated with the franchise on terms agreed upon by the parties. We expect NUL has entered those negotiations in good faith and look forward to a successful conclusion."

However, Livingstone said that should negotiations be unsuccessful, a sole arbitrator could be appointed under the Arbitration Act.

"This is simply the Town of Hay River exercising its rights as a municipality to ensure the best option for its residents," he said.

Livingstone added the structure of the NWT electricity system is a factor in the high cost of energy.

"Examining that structure for ways to lower those costs is certainly something the GNWT is interested in," he said. "The GNWT has, over the years, reviewed a number of options for restructuring the power system in the Northwest Territories."

Tenney suggested a number of possible ways to co-operate.

One option might be each side continuing to own their companies and assets but all of the people could be put together in one operating entity.

Another model might be to put everything together, and each side would own a percentage of a new company.

Or responsibilities could be split up so one entity could be the generator and transmitter of electricity in all communities and the other entity could be the distribution company that deals with customers.

"So there's a number of models that we're prepared to explore," said Tenney.

Pam Coulter, the communications manager with NTPC, said any possible change of structure would be a decision of the corporation's shareholder, the GNWT.

The franchise agreement between Northland Utilities and the Town of Hay River expires on Nov. 30.

However, Tenney expects Northland Utilities will stay beyond the end of the franchise agreement because a value for its assets will not have been determined, and will have to be done by a third-party arbitrator.

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