Our provincial government is proposing to fix hydro rates for the next three years.
Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton and Finance Minister Scott Fielding announced Thursday that the Conservative government will introduce legislation amendments this fall that would set interim rates for Manitoba Hydro and limit annual rate increases to 2.5 per cent for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
"Our government is proposing a modest increase of 2.5 per cent, the lowest hydro rate increase in 10 years," says Wharton. "Manitobans deserve a financial break during this pandemic and that's why we're keeping rates among the lowest in North America."
While Manitoba Hydro had requested a 3.5 per cent increase to take effect this fall, the government is proposing rate increases of 2.5 per cent in 2021, 2022 and 2023, subject to approval of the legislative assembly.
The proposed 2.5 per cent increase each December is 25 per cent lower than the average annual rate increase over the past decade between 2010-11 to 2019-20. The 2.5 per cent is the lowest rate increase in 10 years since 2011-12 and would result in an average residential annual increase of $35, Wharton notes.
These limited rate increases will be introduced as amendments to bill 35: the public utilities ratepayer protection and regulatory reform act. The act would reduce the regulatory costs currently paid by ratepayers by an estimated $40 million by moving to multi-year general rate applications, as is the case in other jurisdictions. These interim rates will be approved by the legislative assembly until the Public Utilities Board (PUB) approves rates for the first multi-year period, to give the PUB time to implement reforms and allow utilities to prepare for more rigorous multi-year reviews.
"The interim rates set by legislation will bring stability to the system and create certainty and predictability for Manitobans as they budget for their home and business hydro bills," says Fielding. "Bill 35 makes the Public Utilities Board stronger and more independent while maintaining its powers of oversight and ensuring transparency on major projects."
The ministers note bill 35 would create a stronger and more independent Public Utilities Board with the power to review any major projects and contracts worth more than $200 million. Under this new regulatory framework, Manitoba Hydro would be required to submit a multi-year General Rate Application to the PUB for establishing electricity that includes an Integrated Resource Plan with a 10-year load forecast and development of any new major facilities within the next 20 years.