Manitoba Hydro Status Update Hearing
In fall 2020, the provincial government introduced legislation that raised electricity rates by 2.9%, bypassing the usual practice of PUB hearings and approval. In addition, Hydro rates for First Nation residential customers on reserve have risen by over 9% since September 1, 2020, raising concerns of rate shock.
On March 26, 2021, the Consumers Coalition (comprised of Harvest Manitoba, the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Branch of the Consumers’ Association of Canada) asked the PUB to order a review of whether Manitoba Hydro current rates are just and reasonable, arguing that substantial changes at Hydro warrant public scrutiny.
Manitoba Hydro has not had a full hearing into the rates it charges customers for three years, raising concerns that rates may be too low or too high, which could result in future rate instability. The PUB found that since the last full hearing, Manitoba Hydro’s circumstances have changed substantially for many reasons, including:
- the corporation has doubled the size of its assets and debt through the new major capital generation and transmission projects that have entered or are entering commercial service, which has a significant annual revenue requirement impact;
- impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, including a reduction of electricity usage in commercial and industrial settings;
- a multi-billion dollar export sale with SaskPower; and
- near-time net income changes, in part due to current water conditions.
On Tuesday August 18, 2021, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) determined that Manitoba Hydro’s circumstances have changed substantially and granted the Consumers Coalition application for a public process to determine whether Manitoba Hydro rates are just and reasonable and fairly allocated among the various customer classes.
The Interim Premier, Premier Goertzen, has recently announced that Bill 35, which allowed the government of Manitoba to set Hydro rates would be withdrawn at the next sitting of the Legislature in October and has agreed that the PUB should determine any rate hike requests.