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Going up, way up

Guess what? Your power rates are going up — way up.

Tell you something you didn’t know, right? Well, here’s something you may or may not realize: your government has been doing everything in its power to try to prevent that from happening.

Sorry, there’s a “not” missing in that sentence. They are doing everything they can not to prevent it. Confused? You shouldn’t be. Nalcor Energy and its subsidiary, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, have been warning for years that power costs will go up. The main purchaser of that power, Newfoundland Power, is before the Public Utilities Board right now arguing for yet another rate hike. (They’re the company that decides what you, the consumer, pays.) Is Muskrat Falls to blame for this? Well, Nalcor has always maintained our rates were going up anyway. You may remember all its graphs and charts showing projected rates steadily climbing because of, among other things, a continuing rise in fuel costs. (That didn’t quite pan out now, did it?)

But we’re building Muskrat Falls anyway — the projected cost of which is also constantly rising.

The Crown corporation is borrowing billions to complete this project. And it needs to provide lenders with assurances the money will be paid back, with interest.

How? The only way is to make sure Hydro can charge as much as it needs to pay off this increasingly expensive dam. So it definitely can’t have any competition. We can’t have anyone offering a cheaper price.

So, who guaranteed this monopoly? The provincial government, at your service.

In 2012, the Tories passed Bill 61. In a nutshell, it gives Hydro exclusive control over the grid. No one else can generate or import power and sell it wholesale. Even personal-use power generation has to stay off the grid for now while netmetering legislation remains in limbo.

And to top it off, the Public Utilities Board — the ultimate provincial authority for deciding rates and other facets of power generation — has been stripped of any say in what Muskrat Falls charges for electricity. It can only play a role in the final rate to consumers.

One more thing: there’s been a lot of talk lately about putting cash from power sales outside the province towards rate relief for local consumers.

Unfortunately, the government may have shot itself in the foot there, too. Because the U.S. demands that any jurisdiction selling power in their markets must also allow open competition in its own.

It’s not certain yet, but Bill 61 may have put the kibosh on that.

The drip, drip, drip of these developments may have seemed logical at the time. But the final product resembles anything but a case of the government working for the people.

Instead, it has held us hostage.

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