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P.E.I. looks for ways to curb electric rate hikes

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Prince Edward Island is it looking into what it can do to protect ratepayers from soaring electricity prices.

The price of electricity has gone up three times within the last year — a total of nine per cent — and yet more rate hikes might be coming.

Maritime Electric is looking for $64 million dollars to transition to smart meters and it’s proposed to pay for them by the feds spending $19 million, the company making $30 million in cost savings, and 0.3 cents per kilowatt-hour from ratepayers by 2028.

However, the province may yet step in.

“There’s nothing saying that we still can’t still execute our right to pay the other half of it,” said Steven Myers, minister of environment, energy and climate action for P.E.I. “At this point I want to see the smart meter thing play out, see where it gets to, and we can make a decision as government when the time comes.”

Liberal opposition says it's just protecting corporate profits.

“This is happening while they cut corners by neglecting vegetation management for years,” said Robert Henderson, P.E.I. Liberal MLA. “Smart metering implementation is coming along with costs ballooning by the day.”

A further 2.9 per cent increase is in front of the island’s regulatory commission now, to cover damage from post tropical storm Fiona. That's intended to be temporary, for five years, to cover an estimated $37 million in storm costs.

It would bring the total rate increase up to 12 per cent over the past year.

In the legislature Friday, the energy minister faced questions from his own caucus if he’ll consider taking over P.E.I.’s electric utility.

“I think it’s time that we took a heavy stance, so yeah, we will, not only look into it, we’re going to research a report to see what it would look like if islanders owned the electricity production and delivery here on Prince Edward Island,” said Myers.

For more Prince Edward Island news visit our dedicated provincial page.

Correction

A previous version of this story stated the P.E.I. government was considering privatizing Maritime Electric.

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