The minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) is denying allegations the government-owned corporation is overcharging Yellowknife customers millions of dollars for power.
Recently, Northland Utilities – a private company – launched an aggressive media campaign claiming that NTPC is overcharging them to distribute power to the NWT capital.
Northland currently distributes power that’s generated by NTPC to customers in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Providence, Trout Lake and Wekweeti.
But come November, the power corporation will take over distribution in Hay River once an existing franchise agreement with Northland Utilities expires.
Making little distinction between the government and NTPC, Northland says the power corporation is overcharging Yellowknifers so that customers in NTPC-served communities can receive an ‘artificial’ discount.
Altogether, the company claims Yellowknife customers are paying $500 a year more than residential customers in Fort Smith and Fort Resolution for power.
Since 2008, Northland says the power corporation has overcharged Yellowknife customers some $28 million for power.
On Monday, Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart put some of those allegations to Louis Sebert, the minister responsible for NTPC.
“Recently, claims have been made that Yellowknife consumers are possibly being overcharged for power, and frankly … if this is true, I find that most egregious,” said Testart.
“These claims by Northland have been followed by an aggressive media campaign and even a poll of residents conducted by foreign research, while the government’s response to this has been silent to date.
“In fact, the last time I saw the NTPC in the media was over power rate increases. Needless to say, this is not instilling confidence in our consumers.”
Sebert refuted those claims, saying the power corporation is not in fact charging Yellowknife customers disproportionally.
“There is no basis for Northland’s assumption or assertion,” he said. “Electricity rates and cost of service percentages are regulated by the Public Utilities Board, which is an open and thorough process.
“Yellowknife rates do not subsidize those in other rate zones, such as the South Slave or the thermal communities. This could never be the case, as cost of service in one zone is not applied to other zones.”
The battle over power in the Northwest Territories is only just beginning.
With Yellowknife’s franchise agreement with Northland set to expire in 2020, company officials are concerned the power corporation will bid for a contract in the capital as well.