NWT pays highest power rates in the country: report

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Northwest Territories residents are paying the most for electricity in Canada, according to an Energy Hub report released on Feb. 14. 

That means residents pay about $387 per month, assuming an average monthly usage of 1,000 kWh.

That contributes to the high cost of living in the territory, say researchers.

“High energy prices, in general, is almost a social issue,” said Rylan Urban, founder of the sustainable energy group Energy Hub. “If electricity prices are cheaper, you have so much more access to electricity that you can use for your business, or increasing the quality of your life.”

NWT has the highest power costs in Canada, according to a Feb. 14 Energy Hub report.
graphic courtesy of Energy Hub

To create the study, the organization looked at the basic rates of major Canadian utility providers.

“Basically, we calculated how much a customer would pay on average, assuming a monthly usage of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month,” said Urban. 

He said costs could be alleviated through reduced usage and a home energy retrofit, including new light bulbs and improved insulation. Power costs in jurisdictions with a lot of hydroelectric generators tend to be lower, which is why Yukon’s rates are considerably cheaper, he said, while NWT tends to use more costly methods of generation, such as burning diesel, more often.

Doug Prenderghast, spokesperson for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation explained most NWT communities rely on small-scale and non-integrated power systems, meaning they aren’t connected to a central grid. 

“NTPC has approximately 9,000 customers in 31 communities spread over 1.1 million square kilometres, making the NWT one of the least dense population bases in Canada,” he stated in an email.

He pointed to a strategic plan the NTPC is finalizing that aims “to reduce the gap between electricity rates in the NWT and the Canadian national average.”

Proposed measures include cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power generation in diesel-reliant communities by an average of 25 per cent by 2030. 

He added that a larger industrial base could ease costs.

“NTPC is committed to keeping rates as low as possible. All spending decisions consider the impact on rates, while balancing the need for sustainability and environmental responsibility,” he stated.

The Bluefish dam hydro station in 2011 showing a pipe bringing water down from Bluefish Lake to the power plants housing power generation turbines. 
NNSL File photo

“A number of NTPC’s generation and transmission assets are nearing the end of their design life and must be refurbished or replaced,” he said, explaining that without federal infrastructure funding, rates would have to increase to cover the cost. 

“Every dollar we spend must be justified as being in the best interests of the corporation and our customers.”

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