Summerside heading to court to fight for better power rates

Mike Carson
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City looking for its own power transmission line

SUMMERSIDE - The City of Summerside's dispute with the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) for a transmission cable is heading to the P.E.I. Supreme Court, Appeals Division in September.

Summerside power utility's Ottawa Street substation.

 

IRAC has denied the city's application for Summerside Electric to install its own transmission line to access the two submarine cables at Maritime Electric's switching station in Bedeque.

The city had initially won its claim when the P.E.I. Court of Appeal ruled in its favour in July of 2011.

The city applied to IRAC for the transmission line permit but was denied in a decision handed down by IRAC in April of 2013 setting the stage for the latest appeal.

The city contends it is being unfairly treated when it comes to energy charges the cost of moving power through a Maritime Electric cable.

“We have had some discussion with Maritime Electric,” said Gordon MacFarlane, director of legal affairs for the city. “Obviously, we would like the preferred resolution to be a negotiated resolution but to date we haven’t gotten there.”

There are two components to this issue - the Open Access Transmission Tariff and the city's desire to run its own power transmission line.

According to figures released by the city in 2012, Summerside pays about $100 per user of electricity to transmit the energy from Bedeque to Summerside.

The city sees that rate as unfair especially when it's compared to the wind developers on the Island who can ship their wind power off-Island for about $20 per customer. The wind shipped from West Cape to Summerside costs about $30 per customer.

The city believes it can build a line from its Ottawa Street substation to Bedeque and move power more cheaply.

 “We are looking for a permit to build a transmission line from our substation on Ottawa Street to Bedeque so we can bypass, with our own transmission line and wheel our energy in off the cable instead of buying it from Maritime Electric,” MacFarlane said. “In the long run, by our calculations, it would be a cheaper and more reliable option for Summerside Electric rate payers.”

Maritime Electric set the tariff and Summerside Electric objected to it because it allows Island wind producers to export wind power off Island for a lesser rate than Summerside can transmit electricity from the substation in Borden-Carleton. The city was transmitting a lesser distance but being charged a higher rate.

The dispute has been going on since 2006.

“What spurred it on was Maritime Electric developed an Open Access Transmission Tariff and underneath their new tariffs, Summerside Electric would be paying increased transmission costs,” MacFarlane said. “That’s what spurred us on to take a look at what our options were. At the end of the day, all we’re trying to do is get the best deal possible for Summerside ratepayers.

The purpose of the Maritime Electric Open Access Transmission Tariff is to provide non-discriminatory open-access transportation service over the Maritime Electric transmission system. Power is transmitted via two 200-megawatt underwater cables that lead from the power substation in Bedeque and travel to the shoreline through the Fernwood area and then go underground across the Northumberland Strait to Murray Corner, N.B.

mcarson@journalpioneer.com

Organizations: Maritime Electric, Summerside Electric, P.E.I. Court

Geographic location: Summerside, Bedeque, Iceland Ottawa Street Cape Borden-Carleton Fernwood

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