“Choice cannot be to feed my family or pay my power bill,”: NWT power corp boss

Jay Grewal, CEO and president of the NTPC
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Facing a potential $25-million loss, the CEO of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation says the company wants to avoid passing costs onto residents.

During a presentation of the power corporation’s 20 year plan to Yellowknife city council Monday, Jay Grewal was questioned by councillors who worried power costs would continue to rise. Power in the NWT is five times higher than the national average. In the last five years rates have shot up 31 per cent.

“With what confidence can we as a council go out to our community and say they can do this for us? From where I’m sitting it’s a really tough pill to swallow based on the historical information we have,” says councillor Niels Konge. The frustration was echoed by councillor Steve Payne who said access fees and rate riders are out of hand.

“It seems you have us by the golden boys no matter what we do,” he quipped, to which Grewal responded, “It isn’t our intention to hold anybody by any body part.”

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The North faces unique challenges in providing power to its residents, with 23 isolated communities with populations from 90 to 3,000 residents relying on diesel or LNG for power.

“We do not have hydro in the North, we have no opportunity to economically or socially build hydro there because of these isolated communities and the distances between those communities,” Grewal says.

Grewal says the power corporation faces a $25-million net loss in 20 years, as the power corporation is dealing with declining revenues, costly infrastructure upgrades and maintaining aging infrastructure.

“The choice for them cannot be do I feed my family or do I pay my power bill,” Grewal says.

The NTPC plans to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gases, as well as the frequency of power outages per customer from 10 to six per year.

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Attracting mining companies will enable the NTPC to create economies of scale across the Northern power system, Grewal says. The Taltson hydroelectricity expansion project is a crucial part of this, she adds.

“All roads lead back to Talston. If we do not get the Talston expansion and if we are not able to connect the north and south grids, our reality will be a difficult and challenging one.”

The Taltson project was attempted once before, but at the time the NTPC found there wasn’t a business case for it. Between 2001 and 2011 $18 million has been spent on the project, which aims to connect the Taltson river system to the North Slave hydro system and increase production to 60 megawatts initially.

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