Manitobans will soon be paying 3.6 per cent more for their electricity.
The Public Utilities Board approved Manitoba Hydro’s rate increase. Hydro was asking for a rate hike of 7.9 per cent. The PUB issued 37 orders and 16 recommendations which were aimed at both Manitoba Hydro and the Province of Manitoba.
“We will look at all the recommendations set out in the report” said Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen.
The PUB suggested the province create bill affordability programs to help lower-income customers and it would be funded by revenues from the Keeyask generating station. The PUB also ordered the creation of a new "First Nation on-reserve residential customer class." Those Manitobans who fall into the new customer class will not receive an increase in electricity rates in 2018.
It was recommended the provincial government suspend the collection of about $900 million in revenue from the Bipole III transmission line over the next 13 years. The PUB also recommends that the government use some revenues from its soon-to-be-introduced carbon tax to Manitoba Hydro to help lower future electricity rate increases. Minister Cullen clarified carbon tax revenues would not go to Manitoba Hydro because the intent of the tax is to put that money back into the hands of Manitobans.
“I will say Manitoba remains one of the lowest cost jurisdictions for electricity in North America and Manitoba remains open for business. I wish to thanks the PUB board for all their work over the past year and we look forward to reviewing these orders and recommendations in greater detail in the days and weeks to come” said Cullen.
Challenges ahead include interest rates, the possibility of a drought and the potential for reduced revenue at Manitoba Hydro. At the end of the last quarter Manitoba Hydro’s debt was $19 billion. Hydro officials say under the old plan debt was going to go up but with the rate increase lower than what was requested the debt will increase even more. Manitoba Hydro’s interest costs will reach $1.3 billion on revenues of $1.6 billion.