Power corporation drops rates, promises no more flaming ravens

Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) substation near Yellowknife
An NTPC substation near Yellowknife. (Supplied by NTPC.)
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Power rates in the Northwest Territories are dropping.

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) has filed plans for a 2.6 percent cut to its key Yellowknife wholesale rate.

That’s the per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) price at which the NTPC sells power to Yellowknife distributor Northland Utilities. That rate also determines a portion of all residential bills in the territory.

Commercial customers in Behchoko and Dettah will see a 15 percent rate cut.

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“Years ago, when the NTPC took over from the federal government, there were some rate imbalances we have never been able to bring back in line,” said power corporation representative Pam Coulter on Friday.

“This is the first chance we’ve had to do some of that – to get [customers] closer to what it actually costs to produce the power for them.”

Related: Battle brewing over power in the Northwest Territories

Giant Mine will pick up the tab.

The former gold mine, now a federal project to remediate one of Canada’s most contaminated sites, will pay an increased rate to offset lost income from the other rate cuts.

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“We can’t take some customers down without taking other ones up – there has to be a balance, as we need a certain amount of money to run the business,” Coulter told Moose FM.

“We can’t increase rates more than one percent other than for government industrial customers – and there is only one government industrial customer. That would be Giant Mine.”

The cut in the Yellowknife rate represents a saving of about half a cent per kWh.

“That will ultimately affect all residential customers in the NWT, as that’s normally passed on as part of the territorial power support program that residential customers receive,” explained Coulter.

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“The first 1,000 or 600 kWh they use, depending on the time of year, is at the Yellowknife rate. If the Yellowknife rate goes down, so does the territorial rate.”

Meanwhile, the power corporation believes it has all but eliminated the possibility of last year’s infamous “flaming raven” incident happening again.

June 2014: Flaming raven cuts power, starts forest fire

Last June, a raven took the blame for simultaneously setting off a forest fire and cutting power to Yellowknife when it electrified itself on transmission lines.

A raven’s wingspan can bridge the gap between transmission line and pole, with profoundly electrifying consequences.

In response, the NTPC has been raven-proofing its transmission lines. That work was 95 percent complete last summer (the raven in question found a section of the remaining five percent) and has continued since.

“We put bird deterrents up – flat metal with bent metal pieces, you can call them spikes – so they don’t land there any more,” said Coulter.

“By putting those up, the ravens don’t land and therefore do not span that space between the wire and the pole.”

Forest fires remain a threat, with or without ravens, but Coulter said the NTPC has yet to see any adverse effect from this year’s season.

And while water levels in the territory are low enough for the power corporation to be using additional diesel fuel in tandem with hydro, it’s not yet clear if this will have a knock-on effect on the rate you pay.

“If we don’t get the high influx of water we normally get into our reservoir in July, we will have to look at a potential rate rider. But we can’t anticipate that until it happens,” said Coulter.

“Between the third week of July and first week of August we normally get our peak for water. The snow this year was 95 percent of normal, so we know we won’t be back to normal – but we’re optimistic that we’ll get a good influx.”

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