Proposed NB Power rate hike ‘not helpful’, Canadian trade organization must step in – New Brunswick

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The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says it will seek intervenor when the Energy and Utilities Board begins hearings on NB Power’s rate increase application.

Louis-Philippe Gauthier, vice president for the Atlantic region, said companies have had to deal with labor shortages, inflation, supply chain issues and the COVID-19 pandemic and that many have not been able to reach pre-pandemic income levels.

“It’s like getting a brick out the window at this point,” he said. “With all the increased costs businesses have had over the past year, that won’t help.”

On Wednesday, NB Power submitted an application to the EUB for an 8.9% rate increase in all classes, meaning it will have the same impact on residential and commercial customers.

This is the largest request for a raise since 2007.

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He said the next step is to review pricing demand and gather information on the impact of electricity tariffs on business results, in addition to other challenges they face. CFIB will bring this to the EUB when the hearings begin.

On the political side, however, the debate continues over how best to manage rising rates.

Premier Blaine Higgs said small rate increases in the past, previous denials of higher rate requests and significant debt have all led NB Power to the situation it currently faces.

He said the government will not interfere with the application.

“We’re going to let the process unfold,” he told reporters on Thursday. “Identify any issues the utility is facing and we will find a way to mitigate to help homeowners and those hard hit by energy increases mitigate those impacts.”

The Higgs government has given the provincial utility a mandate to reduce its $5 billion debt, which it has said this increase will not touch, describing it as a balanced budget for 2023.

Liberal Leader Susan Holt said there was a balance to be found in this rate increase.

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“There has to be a balance between trying to put the public service on a path to sustainability, but also recognizing that this increase is too big for people to handle,” she said. “So I think it takes two different approaches.”

Green Party Leader David Coon said the government should remain independent of the EUB process and allow that governing body to determine whether the rate hike is warranted, but must help in other ways.

He said he should increase the budget for energy efficiency programs and provide direct support to low-income households during the winter months to help them get their heating bills under control.

“That’s where the government has to step in and make sure there’s enough budget to do those two things,” he said. “They bring in over $200 million a year in carbon tax revenue, so they have the money to work with that.”

The rate increases are expected to remain in effect for a year, if accepted, with NB Power saying it’s too difficult to predict what the rate would look like for 2024.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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