Any money sitting in an account from electricity rate overpayments will go back to ratepayers, says Energy Minister Wes Sheridan.
Sheridan made the remarks during today’s question period after Opposition Leader Olive Crane said the utility has been collecting at least $21 million in overpayments from Islanders.
Sheridan said that money came from the Energy Cost Adjustment Mechanism (ECAM), which the previous Progressive Conservative government established to make sure consumers weren’t hit by spikes in energy prices.
That account will be emptied by the end of the five-year energy accord, Sheridan said.
“That is the commitment that Maritime Electric has made to Prince Edward Island government and we’ll ensure that that takes place so that Islanders have a predictable, reliable source of energy going out into the predictable future.”
The P.E.I. Energy Accord led to an average drop of 14 per cent in electricity rates, in part because the province assumed $35 million in Maritime Electric’s debt at a lower rate than the company could borrow.
Maritime Electric’s ratepayers will pay back the amount borrowed but Opposition Leader Olive Crane accused the government of keeping the details of its energy accord secret.
Crane cited a report from an energy producer in New England. That producer saw a 45 per cent drop in peak energy prices between 2008 and 2010.
NB Power buys electricity from them.
Sheridan said energy prices can be lower at times but they fluctuate and P.E.I.’s peak electricity use doesn’t always come at a time when the costs are lowest.
“There are times on the grid when there is excess energy,” he said.
Crane then questioned why the government wasn’t making Maritime Electric use the $21 million to pay down its debt.
Sheridan said the ECAM is in place to smooth out energy prices over several years so there can be price predictability.