MP Yvonne Jones wants Labrador residents to help oppose NL Hydro proposal
© Derek Montague
Labrador MP Yvonne Jones (left) will be acting as an intervener when the Public Utilities Board holds a hearing in July, concerning NL Hydro’s proposed rate increases for Labrador. Jones said the increases are not justified, because of the money that Labrador electricity produces for the province.
Labrador MP Yvonne Jones is encouraging residents to be vocal in opposing Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s proposed rate increase for Labrador.
“We’re asking Labradorians to sign a petition,” said Jones. “The more names that we can bring to the Public Utilities Board, opposing this … the better it’s going to be for us in our argument.”
Jones will be acting as an intervener at the Public Utilities Board hearing in July, where the proposal will be debated.
Back in 2013, NL Hydro proposed a full one-cent increase, from 3.9 cents per KWh to 4.9 cents for Labradorians who live in Labrador West and central Labrador, which accounts for 10,500 customers on the Labrador interconnected system.
The 2,600 customers who live on Labrador's coast, meanwhile, would see a price jump, 6.9 cents per kWh to 8.3 cents per kWh (with the Northern Strategic Plan credit applied).
During a public meeting, held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on March 18, Jones stated that Labrador ratepayers should not receive an increase, because of the money that Labrador creates for the province.
Jones pointed out that NL Hydro makes millions of dollars through recalled power on the Upper Churchill, which is sold to Emera, in Nova Scotia.
She also noted that industrial power rates for Labrador’s mining industry would be going up significantly in 2015, creating millions more for the province.
“In Labrador, unlike anywhere else in the province, there’s revenue generated on other electrical users. One of those electrical users is the recall power on the Upper Churchill,” said Jones.
“Right now the mining industry in Labrador West … and any future mines … their power rates are going to go from a quarter cent to four to five cents (per kWh). That’s a huge increase.
“You do the math and, what that means, is an extra $100 to $120 million in profit (from mining) for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Back in 2013, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro vice-president, Rob Henderson, told The Labradorian that the power company had invested $39 million into Labrador infrastructure in recent years. He said new rates were needed to reflect the increased cost of supplying power to the Big Land.
"Hydro has been investing in the Labrador system over the last several years. In particular, with the very active economy in Labrador ... so we need to make investments there to strengthen the system to maintain reliability," said Henderson.
"We have to adjust the rates to reflect the costs of supplying electricity there in Labrador."
According to Jones, the proposed increase will only generate an extra $6 million from Labrador ratepayers.
“It’s not a lot of money to them, but it’s a lot of money to us,” said Jones
Jones told the crowd that getting sympathy from people outside Labrador on this issue could be a challenge. Even if NL Hydro’s proposal is accepted, Labradorians will still have the lowest rates in the country.
But Jones also pointed out that the cost of living in Labrador is sky high, and many are barely scraping by.
“In Labrador, we’re already facing very high costs of living expenses, as it is,” said Jones.
“We’ve paid more in recent years than we’ve ever paid, for those (essential) services.”
Around 30 concerned residents showed up to Jones’ March 18 meeting. Many felt that Labradorians were being treated unfairly in NL Hydro’s proposal.
Local businessman Paul Snelgrove stated that it was unfair for NL Hydro to want more money from Labradorians, while its parent company, Nalcor, is developing Muskrat Falls next door.
Ever since Muskrat Falls began, he noted, the cost of living has gone up in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
“A lot of the costs of living in Labrador are caused by (Nalcor),” said Snelgrove. All of our housing costs are gone up. All of our property taxes are gone up because our (property) values have gone up.”
“All of those things were caused by Nalcor. Then again, on the backhand, they want us to pay more electricity rates. It makes no sense.”