Future of electricity rebate uncertain

The Yukon government won't say if it will extend the interim electricity rebate when it expires at the end of March. “Will the Yukon Party axe the rebate when it comes up for renewal on March 31?”

The Yukon government won’t say if it will extend the interim electricity rebate when it expires at the end of March.

“Will the Yukon Party axe the rebate when it comes up for renewal on March 31?” asked Opposition NDP Leader Liz Hanson in the legislature Thursday.

Scott Kent, the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, called the question “hypothetical.”

“There was a hypothetical question yesterday with respect to the staking withdrawal in the Peel watershed that is in place until the end of the year,” said Kent. “There is now a hypothetical question from the leader of the Official Opposition with respect to the interim electrical rebate, which is in place until March 31.

“The program is in place until the end of this fiscal year and as soon as we’ve made a decision on how to proceed, we’ll communicate that decision to the public and to the members of this legislature.”

This time last year, the Yukon Party was singing the same tune.

When asked about the rebate, at that point set to expire in March 2013, then Energy Minister Brad Cathers indicated the government’s preference for eventually getting rid of it but would not commit either way.

“There is a reason it was referred to as an ‘interim’ electrical rebate, because it is an ongoing subsidy that ensures that the true cost of power is not reflected on people’s bills.”

Eventually, the government extended the rebate another year.

The rebate saves households up to $26.62 per month, or about 20 per cent of the average Yukon residential power bill.

Meanwhile, the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. was in front of the Yukon Utilities Board this week asking for a 11.7 per cent power rate hike over the next two years.

The board already approved an interim hike of 6.5 per cent beginning in July of this year, and the company has asked for that additional fee to rise to 9.5 per cent in 2014, and 11.7 per cent in 2015.

Michael Janigan, a lawyer who represented the Utilities Consumers’ Group, calculated that if those rate hikes are approved and the interim electrical rebate ends on schedule, a residential user of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month would see their bill increase 43 per cent between January 2013 and January 2015.

When Janigan asked whether his calculations were correct, officials representing Yukon Electrical suggested that the government is likely to continue the subsidy.

“In all instances that I was involved with dating back to the mid 1990s with regards to the rate stabilization fund or its successor, the interim electric rebate, I do not believe the government went cold turkey at any point in time with respect to fully eliminating it and potentially having to deal with rate shock,” said James Grattan, according to transcripts from the hearings. Grattan is a director with ATCO Electric, Yukon Electrical’s parent company.

“So, yes, while I will grant you the hypothetical outcome that the government might – might – fully eliminate the hypothetical – sorry, might eliminate the electric rebate … But I think the probability of that outcome is pretty low, based on my experience in the Yukon.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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