New SaskPower rates roll out

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Prince Albert resident and condominium treasurer Eric Smith was taken aback by his new SaskPower rates that came into place on Jan. 1, which he interpreted as increasing more than SaskPower had advertised. 

Looking over his first bills under SaskPower’s new rates, Prince Albert resident Eric Smith was left scratching his head this week.

 

Noting that his kilowatt-hour (kWh) rate jumped by 7.197 per cent, he immediately called to question the 5.3 per cent urban residential increase SaskPower had advertised, and which has been tentatively approved.

“I do not think SaskPower’s doing something underhanded,” he said of the rate increase that took effect on Jan. 1. “I think a mistake’s been made that needs to be corrected.”

Looking at the numbers in Smith’s bill, SaskPower spokesperson Tyler Hopson said that everything’s in order and that the 5.3 per cent rate increase is an average.

The base charge for residential users has remained at $20.22 -- the same as it was in 2013. When the static base charge is added to the kWh rate increase of 7.197 per cent the average user will see the 5.3 per cent increase that was advertised.

Since the new rate structure more use-dependent, those who typically use more electricity will see a higher percentage increase and those who use less electricity will see a lower percentage increase.

Billing gets more complicated when it comes to other user groups, Hopson said, citing a range in rate increases for non-residential users.

This is part of what hung up Smith, who serves as treasurer for his condominium.

In his condominium bill, which is classified under “General service,” the base charge jumped by 7.53 per cent over last year’s and the kWh charge jumped by 7.319 per cent.

Both of these increases are more than the seven per cent urban commercial rate increase average that was advertised, Smith concluded.

“With the condo corporation piece, that is a small urban commercial rate, and in that case the increase is slightly more than the seven per cent class average,” Hopson said, admitting that when one gets into sub-classes the financials get more complicated -- “Which is not ideal,” he said. “I can see why the customer has some questions about it.”

There are a lot of people on fixed income, now -- a lot of us ... Personally, I’m not too bad. I have a decent pension … but there are a lot of people who aren’t in as good a position, and these increases mean a lot to them. Eric Smith

“Unfortunately, it’s not super straight-forward, but if people do have concerns, by all means give us a shout and we’d be happy to make things more clear,” Hopson said.

The customer service phone number is 1-888-757-6937. Inquiries can also be made online, at www.saskpower.com by clicking the “contact us” option at the bottom of the homepage.

This year’s SaskPower increases are still considered tentative, Hopson said, noting that the rate review panel will make their final decision in the spring, on whether they’ll stick.

Subsequent increases of 4.5 per cent for residential users in both 2015 and 2016 are also tentative. Other user groups are slated to face different rate increases.

“A lot of it has to do with aging infrastructure and renewal that is going on across the province as we work to improve the power grid,” Hopson explained of the increases. “Of course, the province is growing, too, so it’s two things at once -- an old system and a lot of population and demand growth.”

Smith said that any increase would be a hard sell to the rate review panel.

“There are a lot of people on fixed income, now -- a lot of us,” he said. “Personally, I’m not too bad. I have a decent pension … but there are a lot of people who aren’t in as good a position, and these increases mean a lot to them.

“Even a 5.3 per cent increase can be painful to some people, financially.” 

Organizations: SaskPower

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