A looming SaskPower rate increase isn’t sitting too well with some people in Saskatchewan according to the chair of the province’s rate review panel.
In August, the utility asked for a rate increase, less than a year after the Crown corporation hiked rates by 3.5 per cent in January of 2017.
The requested rate increase of 5 per cent would take effect March 1, of this year — an average increase of nearly $4.00 per residential customer. The Rate Review Panel has recommended a rate increase of 3.5 per cent instead.
Albert Johnston is the chair of the Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel. He says after extensive public consultation, the resounding response was it’s too much money.
“The message that we received from everybody was the rate increase was too high,” Johnston said. “And that it followed the previous rate increase too quickly.”
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The last time rates increased by five per cent was July 1, 2016. Johnston admits this is politically unpredictable time for government in Saskatchewan, pointing to the upcoming SaskParty leadership election at the end of the month.
“With the Saskatchewan Party electing a new leader later this month,” Johnston said. “This process might get overshadowed a bit.”
Johnston says nonetheless, the findings from the Panel have been submitted to the government.
He says the Panel has heard unprecedented interest in this rate application with people expressing concern at public meetings, through social media and other routes, the rate increase was too high – higher than inflation. Johnston admits the pace of rate-changes is simply too quick.
“Part of our review process is to seek public input,” Johnston said. “We held two pubic meetings, one in Regina and one in Saskatoon. We also met with several industry groups and individual companies.”
Johnston says the Panel has recommended SaskPower get an external review of its expenses.
SaskPower had stated the increases are needed to fund ongoing growth and sustainment-spending.