NB Power is applying for a 2.5 per cent rate increase during a hearing with the Energy and Utilities Board slated for next month.
The public utility says about one third of that increase will be used for storm damage — a budget line that continues to balloon.
“We used to average $2.5 million a year and now it’s sometimes, some years have been over $30 million,” said Gaëtan Thomas, NB Power’s president.
Over the last eight years, the utility says it’s spent more than $100 million in repairs following more than 60 storms — one of the larger ones being Hurricane Arthur. The utility says it can’t work on the 30-year historical storm damage averages anymore and is seeking a shorter time frame of just five years.
Another concern is the federally-imposed carbon tax.
“The rate that we applied for did not include any provision for carbon tax. So this year we’ll be fine, the impact will be minimal but next year will be more difficult,” added Thomas.
But critics say more needs to be done to invest in renewable energy and that NB Power should be looking into phasing out all fossil fuels before 2030.
READ MORE: NB Power files for 2.5% hike in power rates
“Sometimes I think Mr. Thomas carries a great big purse around and in it is a whole bunch of excuses for not changing,” said Lois Corbett, the executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
“Building up on 1980’s electricity systems, not investing in more solar and not investing in more wind. That’s poor public policy.”
NB Power says it’s ahead of targets and by the end of this calendar year, it’ll be 75 per cent carbon free but admits climate change is a concern.
“We need to do whatever we can to minimize those costs, to avoid the worst impacts of the climate break down we’re experiencing and that means we’ve got to take systemic action now,” said Green Party Leader David Coon.
WATCH: Impact of carbon tax on New Brunswick businesses remains murky (April 1, 2019)
Last year, the utility applied for a similar rate increase but it was labeled a “weather tax” and the previous Liberal government didn’t go for it. The Liberals say New Brunswickers can’t afford a rate increase and proficiencies need to be found within the utility.
“The current government who prides himself on saying that they don’t want new taxes, I’m hoping they’ll keep to their word when it comes to that,” said LIberal energy critic Benoit Bourque.
The province’s environment minister, Jeff Carr, declined to comment about the ask. The hearing is slated for next month.