Consumer advocate ready for power rate hearing

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Still time for submissions on Newfoundland Power application

Consumer advocate Tom Johnson. — File photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Ahead of the Jan. 10 start of public hearings on Newfoundland Power’s proposed rate hike, some of the outstanding issues have been settled in pre-hearing consultations before the Public Utilities Board (PUB).

Newfoundland Power is proposing an increase of 7.2 per cent for the average homeowner.

According to what consumer advocate Thomas Johnson told The Telegram Monday, while some of the underlying items have been agreed upon, the major dispute over what could be considered an appropriate return on equity for Newfoundland Power shareholders is still outstanding.

“I am completely opposed to Newfoundland Power’s position on the return of equity they’re seeking and we’ll have to have the board decide on that matter,” Johnson said.

He has publicly stated his objections to the proposed return — 10.4 per cent in 2013 and 10.5 per cent in 2014 — since Newfoundland Power’s initial filing with the regulator.

“I think this case once again highlights that Newfoundland Power is bound and determined to have our Public Utilities Board (acquiesce) to its attempts to compare itself to big U.S. utilities,” Johnson said this week, adding both he

and the experts he has consult-

ed believe the two are not comparable.

It will be up to the PUB to decide. The board will hear from experts for both the consumer advocate and Newfoundland Power on the matter.

In 2009, the PUB found nine per cent to be a fair return. The 2012 return is set at 8.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, expert witnesses brought before the PUB will also be speaking to aspects of depreciation and operating costs — other factors in the proposed power rate increase.

All of the related documentation, including the original filing by Newfoundland Power, can be found on the Board of Commissioners

of Public Utilities website (

Johnson said he has received only a few comments from members of the public on the case up to this point, but suggested more may come after the holidays.

Letters of comment can be submitted directly to the PUB up to Jan. 18. Requests to make an oral presentation to the board can be made up to noon on Friday, Jan. 11.

For more information, people can contact the PUB by phone at 726-8600 or 1-866-782-0006.

Organizations: Newfoundland Power, Public Utilities Board, Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities

Geographic location: U.S.

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Recent comments

  • Former Employee
    January 05, 2013 - 09:59

    As a former employee of NF Power, I offer the following to Mr. Johnson and fellow readers. IMO Newfoundland Power is a poorly run company that has been very effective at simply staying out of the lime light since the Dennis Brown years. They do know what gets attention at these hearings and in the press, and work hard to get around them. With all due respect to the Consumer Advocate (CA), Mr. Johnson is outnumbered, outgunned, and out spent. While he has a staff of several, NP will probably amass a team of at least 40 or 50 people on a cost-is-no-object effort to build a rate case to extract every dollar they can for the shareholders. These costs aren't tracked to the detail of other projects anymore and if they were, the CA's costs would be dwarfed. I will be following this hearing very closely and as I am sure you have gathered I have no love for many of the people that run this company. They treat employees like crap, unless they are either protected by the union or part of the "good ole boys" club. In an effort to level the field a little, I will comment here online on any articles each day and am available to Mr. Johnson should he request my help. Just to get us started on where to find some savings for rate payers: - NP has estimated the total costs of this hearing into their application. This assumes a hearing on every issue, but when a large majority of those issues are settled pre-hearing, then they should not have those costs do not need to be recovered in the requested revenue. What is the average increase now if the hearing costs are reduced to reflect the savings from the settlement of issues? Then we should ask that all hearing costs be tracked in detail so that we can ensure that ratepayers are getting value. - I always found NP to be very generous with their mobile phones and Blackberry's, something I never understood given the nickel and dime nature they usually displayed with employees. Lets get some questions to NP about how many of the approximate 600 employees have cell phones, broken out by cell phone and smart phones? How many cell phones have data plans? How much use of these cell phones and Blackberries is for personal use, data, miunutes, and text services? Do employees have to pay for personal use of minutes and data, and if so how is it tracked? What is the total costs of minutes and data billed back to employees for each of the past 5 years? Can NP provide a list of countries where roaming charges have been incurred by employees for each of the past 5 years, the total costs each year per country, and the amount billed back to employees? On the hardware side, how many phones has NP purchased each year over the past 5 years? Who pays if an employee breaks their phone? How much was spent over the past 5 years on cell phone accessories such as chargers, carry cases, headsets, and anything else cell phone related? This should enlightening and I look forward to reading the responses from NP and contributing as the hearing progresses on many other issues.

    • david
      January 05, 2013 - 13:15

      A crown corp that has a monopoly business and a regulated, guaranteed profit margin...why would you think they would bother to try to run it "well" ? Oh, look...another rate increase! BTW, see that? Brevity.

  • hammond anson
    January 04, 2013 - 14:39

    between solar and wind, plus a abundant of rock for slipform masonry, why does NL put up with this bs. generate, don't cooperate

  • jack badcock
    January 02, 2013 - 10:18

    They want a 10 0/0 return i cant get 3 i should turn myself into a power co

  • Political Watcher
    January 02, 2013 - 09:37

    "I am completely opposed to Newfoundland Power’s position on the return of equity they’re seeking and we’ll have to have the board decide on that matter,” Johnson said. Yet this same guy gave a blind and blanket two thumbs up t Muskrat Falls which give full control to NL Hydro to set their own rates with no opposition. They requie a return on investment also.