The president and chief executive officer of Newfoundland Power says the company will do what it can to make sure electricity rates remain reasonable as the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project comes online.
But changing the way electricity is thought about and consumed is also a crucial part of how that can be achieved, Peter Alteen said.
Alteen, who grew up in Corner Brook and steadily climbed the corporate ladder with Newfoundland Power since being hired in 1987, was named to the utility’s top job last April.
He was back in western Newfoundland as guest speaker for the Rotary Club of Corner Brook’s weekly meeting Thursday.
“Let me assure you, we share your concern and the talk we hear about 22- and 23-cent kilowatt hour rates disturbs us. We don’t think numbers like that are reasonable. We do not think they are rational," — Peter Alteen
After detailing how Newfoundland Power maintains the most reliable electrical infrastructure in Atlantic Canada and is committed to keeping its rates affordable, Alteen discussed the controversial Muskrat Falls project, which threatens to drastically increase power rates in the province in the coming years.
He said there is no doubt challenging times are ahead and there’s no one solution to solve the political mess created by the megaproject. Newfoundland Power intends to focus on both helping customers find ways to reduce their electrical costs and to find new ways of using the excess energy Muskrat Falls will provide, such as incentives to use electric cars, he said.
Here is a little more of what Alteen had to say:
• “Let me assure you, we share your concern and the talk we hear about 22- and 23-cent kilowatt hour rates disturbs us. We don’t think numbers like that are reasonable. We do not think they are rational. … It will drive the price so high that no one will use enough electricity to pay for the plant that you’ve built. It’s really that kind of elementary economics that’s out there.”
• “I can’t tell you today where I think this (rate increase) is going to land. The reason for that is there is simply not enough information out there to draw a rational conclusion about what is going to be a sensible price for electricity going forward.”
• “We couldn’t have much of a say in how or what they were building at Muskrat Falls, but we can have something to say in how the heck it’s going to affect our customers.”
“Newfoundland Power doesn’t have all of the answers, but Newfoundland Power does have something sensible to say about where this is going. And in that discourse, I can only tell you the area where we are focusing on is the impact of all of this on our customers.”
• “We are not so concerned about whether the plant is too big or the plant is too small, how it was built, who decided what. We’re not looking to point fingers – that’s not Newfoundland Power’s position in this. What we’re looking to do is find the best answers. It’s not going to be simple. I can assure you, there is no silver bullet. There is no one thing that is out there that is going to bring to a resolution the appropriate rate level that will be there post-Muskrat Falls. We don’t have it and I can assure you, if anyone comes to you selling it, don’t believe them. It will take a bunch of actions to get us out of the sort of messy situation the sector is in.”
• “What I can tell you is things will be different and we are going to have to think a little different. … We are going to have to hold it in our heads and in our minds that we got to think a little differently as a population if we are going to get through it.”
• “We have committed ourselves to working constructively towards those solutions. I can assure you, give it a year or two, and a lot of the uncertainty and a lot of the anxiety will be relieved.”