A study release today on NB Power warns that the province’s rate payers may see their rates rise above the 2.9 percent increase planned by the utility in 1997.

The study, “Energizing New Brunswick Power: A Brighter Future for Consumers and Taxpayers,” was commissioned by the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) and was prepared by Thomas Adams, Executive Director of Toronto-based Energy Probe, a national consumer and environmental organization.

The study analyses NB Power’s testimony before the Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Crown Corporations last fall. It also examines electricity developments in the province since the release of the first AIMS study on the utility: “New Brunswick’s Power Failure: Choosing a Competitive Alternative” which was presented to the Standing Committee in October.

The report advises the provincial government to study means for securing the provincial power supply in the event of continued problems at the Point Lepreau nuclear station, and to consider the early closure of the station. The report also recommends that the city of Edmundston continue to pursue competitive power purchase options as a means of providing a benchmark against which all New Brunswickers can measure NB Power’s efficiency.

Adams commented, “NB Power’s management appears to be in denial, unwilling to acknowledge the grave problems the utility faces, instead offering false assurances to the legislature and the public. Taxpayers and ratepayers are both at risk, and the risks can only increase while management’s approach persists.” Brian Lee Crowley, President of AIMS, said, “This study raises additional concerns about the status and direction one of the largest economic enterprise in Atlantic Canada.”

Crowley said the report of the legislative committee was a step in the right direction. “The recently released report of the Crown Corporations Committee performed a service to the province by pointing to an open, competitive power system and recommending an examination of the steps that must be taken to effectively implement elements of electricity competition in the province.”