ALBERTON -- Now that the final report of the government-appointed Energy Commission has been made public, opposition energy critic Hal Perry has some advice for the provincial government: “It’s time to put words into action.”
The Energy Commission presented its report, ‘Charting Our Electricity Future,’ to government in September. On Friday Finance, Energy and Municipal Affairs Minister Wes Sheridan made the report public. “I want to thank them for investigating ways we can further stabilize energy costs for the people of this province,” Sheridan said, “and I look forward to implementing their ideas.”
Perry said the opposition applauds the 15 months of efforts. By commissioners Richard Hassard, Roger King, Gerald Morneau and co-chairs David Arsenault and Michael O’Brien.
The task now, he said, is to sort through the recommendations contained in the 85-page report “and determine which of these recommendations are feasible and what is in the best interest of Islanders, for now and for the future.”
Perry is particularly fond of the recommendation calling for a third electrical cable to the mainland and suggested the provincial government has been dragging its feet.
“How many years can go by?” he asked. “These cables that are there now had a life expectancy of 30 to 35 years. We’re now into Year 36. We already had an episode last summer where it cost us over $4 million to repair. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”
Sheridan offered assurances all possible installation and financing options for the new cable are being considered.
Sheridan said the provincial government is already working on a recommendation which calls for transfer of Point Lepreau deferrals from Maritime Electric to the Energy Corporation. He said ratepayers would benefit from reduced financing costs.
Perry also welcomes the recommendation of a consumer advocate on electricity but questions the report’s recommendation for a judicial panel to be established within the Island Regulatory Appeals Commission to deal only with electrical utility regulations, fearing that could result in additional costs to taxpayers.
While there are suggestions implementation of the recommendations will result in savings to consumers, Perry said he is still looking for them. “Nothing’s popping out,” he said.
He noted Islanders are already bracing for increases once the harmonized sales tax taxes affect in April and with the Energy Accord, which froze energy rates, ending in February. It’s critical, he said that whatever recommendations government implements do not cause rates to go even higher.
The report discusses the challenges in being dependent on energy from the mainland, and promotes further growth in wind energy projects. It notes that in the past quarter-century the Island’s population has grown by 14 per cent and electrical consumption has increased 100 per cent. It weighs into the discussion on whether Maritime Electric should be privately or publicly owned and suggests a hybrid option consisting of public ownership of generation assets through the Energy Corporation and continued private utility ownership of the transmission and distribution system.
Sheridan said government would commence consultation with key participants identified in the report to scope and plan some of the structural changes to the Island’s electricity supply and management system.