LETHBRIDGE: For the first time in at least ten years, Lethbridge residents are getting money back because of over-charging for electricity transmission.
The city pays the Alberta Electric System Operator about $1 million each month to cover the cost of running transmission lines, a charge they in turn recover from all residents on utility bills. Estimates of electricity costs in 2010 were higher than the reality - $80 per MWh compared to the actual cost of $50 per MWh. That meant the city charged all residents $2.5 million dollars more than needed throughout the year of 2010.
"The situation wouldn't have existed prior to 2001 [when the province de-regulated the power industry]. But since 2001, this is the first time we've over-collected so much that it was necessary to give it back," says Otto Lenze with the city electric department.
The $2.5 million surplus posted in 2010 for electric operations is higher than the total $2.3 million surplus posted for all city departments the entire year. But because it will go back to ratepayers, it's not included as part of last year's surplus in the formal stats.
City staffers told council Monday that starting in April, all Lethbridge residents will see a break on their monthly utility bills, which varies depending on rates of electricity use. Home utility bills will be rebated $1 to $9 per month, while businesses will get up to $144. City staff say the monthly returns will continue for at least a year until the $2.5 million is paid back.