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2nd N.B. Power rate decision means double-digit increase in April bills

On Tuesday the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board approved a three per cent rate increase because N.B. Power's operating costs were higher than expected. (Michael Heenan/CBC - image credit)
On Tuesday the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board approved a three per cent rate increase because N.B. Power's operating costs were higher than expected. (Michael Heenan/CBC - image credit)

New Brunswick's Energy and Utilities Board has approved a second N.B. Power rate hike in as many weeks, raising power bills by about 13 per cent this April, according to the province's public intervener.

On Tuesday, the EUB approved a three per cent rate increase because the utility's operating costs were higher than expected.

This increase is separate from an interim one approved last week of 9.8 per cent for residential customers.

Public intervener Alain Chiasson said his office has strongly pushed back against the previous rate hike, but his ability to do so for the latest hike is more restrained.

"We've made the argument that these are unprecedented rate increases," Chiasson said.

"We couldn't make that for the … increase of three per cent … It's mostly an accounting calculation."

Depends on actual costs

The latest hike is related to N.B. Power's regulatory variance account.

Regulation "now requires N.B. Power to file a Variance Account Recovery" with the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) each fiscal year," the utility says on its website.

"If actual costs come in lower than anticipated, New Brunswickers can receive a reduction in rates. If actual costs come in higher than anticipated, New Brunswickers can receive an increase in rates."

For the last fiscal year, costs were higher than expected, which means an automatic rate hike to make up the difference.

The back-to-back rate hikes, while unrelated, mean New Brunswickers will face a double-digit rate increase starting April 1.

While the three per cent hike can't be appealed, the 9.8 per cent increase is only an interim one, with a hearing scheduled for May and a final decision expected for June.

This means the double-digit increase could be temporary and customers may be credited later.

"There's a mechanism to invoice the customer … retroactively and give them a credit on their invoice," Chiasson said.