Electricity users could be looking at increase: SaskPower wants rates to go up

REGINA – Power users in Saskatchewan could see their bills go up by about five per cent a year for the next three years.

SaskPower has applied for a three-year rate increase — 5.5 per cent in 2014, five per cent in 2015 and five per cent in 2016.

The utility usually asks for rate increases one year at a time, but president and CEO Robert Watson says looking ahead gives customers and the company better ways to budget.

“We did the three years because…that first and foremost provides certainty for everybody,” Watson said at a news conference Friday in Regina.

“Even our residential customers, our farming customers and our large customers like the certainty of three years. And quite frankly, it helps management. It helps us manage a three-year term, we can make longer term decisions on projects to do or not do, so it helps both sides.”

The rate hike would work out to an extra $5 a month next year for an urban homeowner.

Farms would see rate increases of 3.5 per cent in 2014, 4.5 per cent in 2015 and four per cent in 2016. That means farms would pay about $7 more a month next year.

Watson says there’s no guarantee that the rate hikes in 2015 and 2016 won’t change, but he feels the numbers are “pretty solid.”

“We feel pretty comfortable with the number,” he said.

“If it does have to change, then either it will go down or it’ll be something beyond our control that causes the change.”

The increase still has to be approved by the province’s rate review panel and cabinet.

But the utility says it needs the rate increase to pay for new projects and to keep pace with the province’s growing economy.

Watson says electricity use grew 1.4 per cent between 2000 and 2010. It’s expected to grow eight per cent in 2013-2014 alone. He also says SaskPower connected 10,345 new customers in 2012 — up 14 per cent over 2011 and 144 per cent from 2008.

SaskPower spent $1.35 billion to rebuild or replace aging infrastructure this year. Watson says the plan is to spend about $1 billion a year “for the long-term” on the electrical system.