Farm families hit hard by soaring electricity costs

Alberta farm families are being strangled by skyrocketing electricity costs that stick them with monthly bills of $1,000 or more, cabinet ministers heard at a meeting of rural municipalities Tuesday morning.

Reeves and county councillors from across the province erupted in applause when veteran Grande Prairie farmer Richard Harpe pressed Energy Minister Ted Morton to explain how the government will fix the problem of growing electricity costs.

"The average small farm in rural Alberta - a small cowcalf operator or a small grain farmer - is paying anywhere from $750 to $1,000 per month for electricity, said Harpe, a county councillor who has been farming 2,428 hectares of grain for 40 years. "Before the government deregulated electricity, they were paying $300 every three months, or $100 a month.

"The government promised us cheaper power when they deregulated. They said we'll create competition and you'll get cheaper power."

Morton said he is in the process of appointing an independent panel to review variable and regulated rate options and consider what, if anything, the government can do to reduce volatile costs attached to the variable default rate.

In the meantime, he said rates are expected to return to normal in coming months, bringing power bills down to a level consistent with what people paid last year.

"Rates are back down to eight cents on the regulated rate option, we've frozen the ancillary charges, we're reviewing the regulatory rate option," Morton said.

Calgary Herald, Wed Mar 21 2012
Byline: Karen Kleiss

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