Summerside council to decide whether to increase electric rates

·2 min read

The deputy CAO for the City of Summerside says it'll be up to city council to decide whether Summerside Electric will raise its rates to match an increase announced this week for Maritime Electric customers.

But Gordon MacFarlane said a lack of advance notice around Maritime Electric's rate increase will likely lead to Summerside Electric customers seeing a delay before their bills go up — if they do.

MacFarlane said in the past the city has raised rates to match Maritime Electric, which provides electricity to the rest of P.E.I., and also has 600 customers in Summerside. Summerside Electric services the rest of the city.

"For the last, at least 25-plus years, we've taken a policy approach where we basically match the rates to Maritime Electric," MacFarlane said.

"Staff are doing some work to put numbers in place to be able to present to city council, and council, like they always do, will have to make a final decision on how they want to move forward."

But MacFarlane said given the fact that the city only learned of the rate increase Wednesday, any increase for Summerside Electric will likely be delayed.

City would have liked 'a little more lead time'

"It's not as easy as just flicking a switch and changing a few numbers on an Excel spreadsheet, there's significant back-end work that goes into those sorts of things," MacFarlane said.

"We had two days notice around this. It would have been preferred from our point-of-view if there had been a little more lead time with IRAC's decision."

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

On Dec. 29, the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission published an order dated Dec. 21, approving a rate hike for Maritime Electric. It will be the first increase in rates for the utility since 2018.

As of Jan. 1, residential rates will increase 3.8 per cent. Industrial rates will go up 3.6 per cent.

While Summerside doesn't purchase electricity from Maritime Electric it does pay the company for distribution, and MacFarlane said the city doesn't know yet whether that distribution will cost more under the new rate structure.

Summerside Electric generates nearly half the power the city uses from sustainable sources including solar and wind. MacFarlane said new solar production under development is expected to push that figure close to 70 per cent.

"We're phenomenally proud of that," said MacFarlane.

But he said "renewable energy isn't free.... The infrastructure needs to be well-maintained to make sure we're best situated to move forward."

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