By Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for the Wakaw Recorder
Despite consumer’s and the provincial Opposition objections to an increase in SaskPower rates, the Government of Saskatchewan has accepted SaskPower’s proposed rate increase. The Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel recommended the increase which will take effect September 1, 2022. The overall increase will be split in two equal increases of 4% scheduled for September 1st this year and April 1st, 2023. SaskPower has not increased its rates since 2018 and estimate the average increase customers will see on their bills is $5/month and an additional $5/month with the April increase.
Minister Responsible for SaskPower Don Morgan said. “World events have caused a significant rise in the price of natural gas, and with 42 per cent of Saskatchewan’s electricity coming from natural gas-fueled facilities, SaskPower requires additional revenue to maintain reliable operations.” Coal-fueled facilities used to be the largest producer of energy but as the coal generation winds down, natural gas has stepped into its place. Only about 19% of the energy produced in the province comes renewable energy sources, primarily hydroelectricity. SaskPower President & CEO Rupen Pandya said, “In the four years since our last increase SaskPower has worked to find internal efficiencies, but at this time we require additional funding to continue to provide reliable and sustainable power.” Fuel and Purchased Power expense increases the Government News Release stated, are largely driven by increased natural gas prices and SaskPower’s fuel and purchased power expense is expected to increase from $715 million in 2020-21 to $1.069 billion in 2023-24. This represents a 50 per cent increase in fuel and purchased power expense over three years.
The Saskatchewan Rate Review panel consists of Chair Albert Johnston, Vice-Chair Duane Hayunga, Bonnie Guillou, Glen Dutchak, Kim Hartl, Keith Moen and Sid Katzman who are appointed by the Minister responsible for the Crown Investments Corporation. The Panel reviews rate application proposals by SaskEnergy, SaskPower and the SGI Auto Fund and provides recommendations to the government about the reasonableness of any proposed rate change. The Panel must weigh the interests of the Crown Corporation, the general public and customers to come to the best possible recommendation. Prior to the release of the recommendations the Panel posts the application and other relevant documents to its website, issues news releases, arranges for public meetings and assigns an independent technical expert to complete an in-depth examination of the application.
The Government News Release also stated the approved application also includes “plans for rate rebalancing and a shift in rate design methodology.” This change will only impact customers who pay separate demand and energy charges while residential customers and the majority of farm and small commercial customers will be unaffected.