Summerside begins power fight with Maritime Electric

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 6, 2013
Lawyers Spencer Campbell, left, counsel for Maritime Electric, and David Hooley, representing Summerside Electric, bring their arguments to IRAC in regards to Summerside's application to build its own transmission line.
Guardian photo

The City of Summerside wants more control over its own power.

Summerside has taken that fight to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC).

A hearing began Tuesday in Charlottetown into the city’s application to have the right to construct a transmission line between its Sherbrooke Road substation and the Maritime Electric Company Ltd. Bedeque substation.

David Hooley, counsel for Summerside Electric (a utility under the City of Summerside), said it is the city’s position that the issue comes down to the rates Maritime Electric is charging the city every month.

Meanwhile, Spencer Campbell, representing Maritime Electric, said losing Summerside would mean the utility would end up charging the rest of its Island customers more.

Maritime Electric set a tariff and Summerside Electric objected to it because the city argues that, as wind producers, it can export wind off-Island for a lesser rate than Summerside can transmit electricity from the substation in Bedeque to the city.

The purpose of the Maritime Electric Open Access Transmission Tariff (OATT) is to provide non-discriminatory open-access transportation service over the Maritime Electric transmission system. Power is transmitted via two 200-megawatt underwater cables that lead from the power substation in Bedeque and travel to the shoreline through the Fernwood area and then go underground across the Northumberland Strait to Murray Corner, N.B.

Summerside Electric argues it would be cheaper to build its own transmission line from Bedeque to Summerside and not be on the Maritime Electric system at all.

Maritime Electric has between 600 and 700 customers in Summerside.

“If Summerside leaves the system, the cost goes up for everyone else,’’ Campbell said.

He also raised some alarm bells by suggesting if Summerside is allowed to build its own transmission line, it will be open season for everyone who wants the cheapest rates.

Hooley said Maritime Electric, in this case, isn’t looking out for Island ratepayers but themselves.

He insinuated it’s the “$290,000 in revenue they don’t want to lose’’.

When IRAC commissioner Moe Rodgerson asked if Maritime Electric has to be there to represent the customers, Hooley responded, “Maritime Electric is here to protect its turf.’’

Campbell said Maritime Electric has a responsibility under the Electric Power Act to pursue rates that are “just and reasonable’’.

Gordon MacKay, representing the province, said Maritime Electric has a statutory duty to provide energy at the lowest cost possible.

Greg Gaudet, director of municipal services for the City of Summerside, testified the city has a long history of supplying its own power and the current application fits

with those efforts.

Gaudet pointed out that until the mid-1970s, the city produced most of its own electricity from diesel generators and, in 2007, hatched plans to build its own $30-million wind project.

Gardiner MacNeil, a former employee of Maritime Electric who now works with Coles Associates, also testified on Tuesday.

Coles Associates did the feasibility study on the proposed transmission line for Summerside Electric.

MacNeil said among the options they considered for the city was its own submarine cable.

“After running the numbers . . . we thought this would be the most feasible option for our client,’’ MacNeil said.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart