SaskPower President and CEO Robert Watson announced their plans for the future on July 10. With the growing population of Saskatchewan and implications for this growth to continue well into the future, SaskPower has proposed a rate increase of 4.9 percent. Proposed on July 10, if it is approved the increase will be effective on January 1, 2013.
This would mean an average increase of $4 a month for the urban residential customer and approximately $6 per month for rural residential customers. In relation to rates across the country SaskPower say they will still be providing competitive rates.
Aging infrastructure and an increased demand has meant that SaskPower needs a small increase in capital to provide the improvements to the electrical grid which is needed.
“A good part of our system was built 30 to 50 years ago, in fact even longer, and the equipment, same as any other utility in Canada and North America, is becoming old.” Watson stated.
To deal with these pressures they have established a 10 year plan which shows good growth and a respectable net income, something that will be sustainable. They have also developed a 40 year strategy for power production and transmission facilities. It is a strategy because they will continually re-evaluate their approach, growing with the future.
Currently two major projects are being tackled by SaskPower. The first is Boundary Dam 3 (BD3). This project is meant to assist in carbon capture. They aim to catch the carbon dioxide that is emitted from a coal-fired generating system. Captured post-combustion it is then stored safely or used to assist in the oil patch.
They expect BD3 to reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent, which is equal to one million tonnes every year. To put this into perspective it would be the same as 180,000 vehicles being taken off of the road.
The second major project that SaskPower is currently working on is the Queen Elizabeth Power Station in Saskatoon, which will add 200 megawatts by 2015 to the network. This would be enough to power 200,000 homes according to Watson.
On top of these two major projects that intend to help Saskatchewan cope with the influx of people to the province upgrading the system and providing needed maintenance are also on their minds. Investment in transmission and distribution infrastructure, customer service including the new billing system meant to help automate the customer’s interaction with SaskPower, and 500,000 advanced metres coupled with advanced metre infrastructure will be the foundations for the future.
The new metres are meant to better identify and track power outages, as well as give customers more information about their usage. In addition to this they will be able to connect and disconnect the metres remotely. With the vast power outages in northern Saskatchewan and throughout the rest of the province two weeks ago these would have been beneficial in getting customers back online sooner.
“I find it astounding that Saskatchewan has more poles than there are people in the province. We also maintain over 150,000 km of power line, which is enough to wrap around the earth nearly four times. Goes to show how large the system is and how challenging it is for SaskPower in such a diverse province.” Watson explained in regards to the infrastructure maintained by the company.
“We realize paying more is never welcome news, so we would continue to help our customers offset the impact of the rate increases. We will continue to offer a range of conservation and efficiency programs that can reduce customer’s electricity usage, decrease their power bills, and help protect the environment.” Watson said, explaining that SaskPower is committed to its customers across the province.
In order to aid in offsetting costs to the customers SaskPower is committed to a balanced future in regards to private partnerships. The wind facility in the Chaplin area went to a competitive outside bid, while the expansion of the Queen Elizabeth Power Station remained with SaskPower. While Watson is President and CEO of SaskPower he has stated that they will continue to choose the path, which boasts the best economic and efficient plan presented for the future.
“SaskPower is an integral component of our provinces economic engine. We have an important role to play in securing Saskatchewan’s long term sustained prosperity. This is why we need to invest in rebuilding and renewing the provinces electrical system; so, we can power the unprecedented growth and continue to provide safe, reliable, and sustainable electricity to our customers.” Watson stated.
As the proposed rate increase is debated by the review panel and a recommendation to the government for how SaskPower should proceed, it is encouraged for customers to contact SaskPower directly or to contact the Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel.
“The details are still being worked out,” Panel Chair Kathy Weber stated, “but all methods for communicating with the Panel will be advertised, including the dates, times and locations of public meetings. The Panel is encouraged by the responses received from the public during recently completed reviews and will follow a similar consultation process with the application from SaskPower.”
The Panel is meant to deliver a report concerning the rate increase to the Crown Investments Corporation on Monday, November 19, 2012. For the rate application and other related documents and public meeting updates one can check the posts on the Panel’s website, www.saskratereview.ca.