Manitobans will soon be paying more for hydro.
Manitoba’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) approved an average revenue increase of 3.6 per cent to be applied to Hydro customers’ rates as of June 1.
The increase had been under review by PUB since December 2017, part of Hydro’s plans to cut down its debt and finance the company’s two main projects – the Bipole III transmission line and Keeyask generating station. The provincial crown corporation had initially requested an increase of 7.9 per cent, more than double the finalized hike.
In addition to the increase, the PUB has recommended the provincial government to suspend collection of government revenues from the Bipole III project. Over the next 13 years, that measure will result in $900 million in lost revenue for the province – the approximate cost of changing the Bipole III route from the east side of Lake Winnipeg to the west side of Lake Manitoba.
The rise will mean a Hydro customer paying a $2,000 bill before the hike will be seeing an increase of $72 on their first bill after June 1.
Hydro has applied to PUB for a series of 7.9 per cent rate increases through the 2023-24 fiscal year. No future increases have been approved by PUB.
Flin Flon Mayor Cal Huntley said the city expected a rise in hydro rates, adding that the city accounted for a 3 per cent increase in hydro spending over the next fiscal year and worked the new figure into the city budget.
“For this year, there’ll be minimal impact,” said Huntley.
While the hydro hike will not rock the boat for the city budget, Huntley is not pleased that the increase is higher than the year-over-year change in Manitoba’s Consumer Price Index, currently increased by 3.1 since April 2018.
“I am very disappointed that the increase to the utilities rate is above the CPI, because that makes it hard on all of our communities, but there will be minimal impact on the city budget for 2018-19,” he said.
The rising cost of hydro is causing some business owners to find new ways to power their businesses. Tom Therien, North of 53 Consumers Co-op general manager, said the new Coop store in Flin Flon is powered using a combination of propane and hydro to offset costs.
“We’re running the heat and everything off it. There’s very little hydro being used in that building,” he said.
“It [the price hike] probably won’t affect us that much, mainly because we switched to propane in the new shop. All we’re running is electric for lights,” said Therien.
Since the Co-op already sells propane, the costs associated with the fuel are lower and more stable than hydro prices – even with a provincial carbon tax being implemented in Manitoba as early as September.
“We sell propane and it’s now cheaper than hydro. We’ve managed to do work with that.”