Power struggle

Published on July 24, 2014

The City of Summerside is heading to the P.E.I. Supreme Court Appeals Division in September to try and win a better deal for the ratepayers of the Summerside Electric Utility.


The city is looking for a permit to build a transmission line from its substation on Ottawa Street to Bedeque so it can bypass, with its own transmission line and bring energy in off the cable to the Summerside grid instead of buying it from Maritime Electric.

The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) has denied the city's application for Summerside Electric to install the transmission line to access the two submarine cables at Maritime Electric's switching station in Bedeque.

The city sees that rate as unfair especially when it's compared to 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.

While the cost of a transmission line would be in excess of $200,000, city officials believe, in the long run, Summerside Utility ratepayers would be better off.

The city would have better control of its rate charges and costs and would not be subject to Maritime Electric’s Open Access Transmission Tariff.

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.

Maritime Electric has had a virtual strangle hold on power rates charged across Prince Edward Island and Summerside’s move to try and check that control is a good one. It’s fair competition.

Mixed in with all of this is the issue of 600 Maritime Electric customers who are within the City of Summerside boundaries, but do not have access to electric service from the Summerside Electric Utility.

These residents came into the city through amalgamation in 1995, but Maritime Electric has declined to release them to the Summerside Electric Utility.

The city has made numerous overtures to Maritime Electric to allow these customers to transfer to the locally owned and operated power plant, but to date Maritime Electric has refused.

This issue has been ongoing since 2006 and it will take the P.E.I. Supreme Court, Appeals Division, to bring an end to it.

The city would benefit greatly from the transmission line. It could provide competitive power rates not only to homeowners but also to businesses within the community. As well, an appealing power rate, would go a long way to enticing new business and home construction to the city.

Summerside has a history of courtroom battles but in this case, this is one that needs to be fought and won.