Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady confirmed Thursday that the provincial government’s subsidized electricity rates will include large industrial customers after Muskrat Falls begins generating power.
Coady was speaking at the Mineral Resources Review conference in St. John’s Thursday morning, talking optimistically about the future of the mining sector.
But Coady acknowledged some big industrial operations need a lot of power, and the government has to be careful not to let rates go too high.
“Industrial customers get a different rate because they’re such heavy users. They get a different rate than individuals as well anyways. We need to continue to attract the industrial growth in this province, and we’ll continue to do so,” she said.
“We will look at rate management to ensure we have a strong economy, so we will be looking at making sure that we are on par with Atlantic Canada when it comes to competitive pricing.”
Due to cost overruns and schedule delays, Muskrat Falls would drive up electricity rates steeply if the government doesn’t do anything to subsidize rates.
Premier Dwight Ball has said he plans to keep rates at par with the forecast Atlantic Canada average of 17 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The government and Nalcor Energy are still figuring out exactly how all this will work, but Coady confirmed it will apply to all electricity rates, not just residential rates.
“It’s the intention of the province to remain competitive with Atlantic Canada to make sure we can still attract people to do their investments here,” Coady said.
“A lot of times, because these are remote, they’re using diesel, so they’re looking at alternative energy sources, and we’re willing to work with anybody to give them that opportunity in the province.”
Overall, Coady was optimistic about the future of mining in the province. She said public geoscience work in the province is provoking a lot more exploration.
She pointed in particular to surveys that showed possible gold deposits in Central Newfoundland.
“(That caused) in 2016 a real rush on the staking of gold in Central Newfoundland — 21,000 claims were staked, and what that means is, of course, there’s a lot of work being done in the central Newfoundland area looking for gold,” Coady said.