By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye
Once a year Town of Ponoka corporate services recommends where council should set distribution rates for the upcoming year, in this case to bring electric power into town. These numbers are based on forecasts from FortisAlberta, which owns the electrical distribution rights to bring power in rural areas. Fortis forecasts a 30-per-cent increase, which will affect homeowner’s utility bills.
The increase would add $7.18 to customer bills, totalling $40.66 per month, $2 of which go to the town and its costs. The original amendment for Ponoka’s share of increased charges was for $1 but council anticipates higher operating and staffing costs in 2012.
The Town of Ponoka did some price comparisons of other towns to see what people are paying there, and monthly charges for Fort MacLeod are $42, Cardston, $32, and Crowsnest Pass, $44.
Betty Quinlan, director of corporate services, says the process of getting the numbers is fairly complicated because of government rules, so they use a consultant company to calculate the numbers. “There are so many rules that if you get the pricing wrong, the consequence can be costly.”
Quinlan said the one benefit is if the estimate is higher then there will be a rebate to customers. In June the town reviews costs to see if the estimates are accurate.
CAO Brad Watson said it is similar to keeping up with the cost of living but in this case it is the cost of receiving and distributing power. “The town could continue to absorb the costs, but if you do that for five to 10 years then there would be some catching up and you would have to do a big jump.”
The town owns the electrical distribution within Ponoka but not a power plant so the town has to pay for transmission of the power. Fortis currently charges customers $50.02 for power transmission.