Mired in overpayments Hydro-Québec

Embourbé dans les trop-perçus d’Hydro-Québec

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Le Devoir
Hydro-Québec has recorded surplus earnings of 182 million for the year 2018.

The prime minister François Legault is caught up by his past in the opposition on the issue of overpayment of Hydro-Québec.

The government caquiste, however, is not the only one to be struggling with the extra-billing of Hydro-Québec. It was present in the arsenal of liberals deployed to balance the budget. Before them, the government Marois had tried, without success, to impose a directive urging the Régie de l’énergie to close your eyes on efficiency gains taxed at Hydro as the budget of the minister of Finance, Nicolas Marceau, relied on an additional contribution of the State company. Under François Legault, Quebec continues to pursue the tradition.

Where François Legault rumbles on, it is in its defense regarding the new overpayment, 182 million, accounted for by Hydro-Québec for the year 2018. Suddenly, the Québécois do not place a priority in the refund of such surpluses, supported it Wednesday. At most intends to ensure that future rate increases will not exceed inflation, to which the management of the State company is already committed and that, precisely, the redistribution of overpayments could facilitate. It is estimated that 120 million to be returned to consumers in the form of the tariff adjustment in 2020 could apply a downward pressure of 1.1 percentage point.

He was recalled again on Wednesday when it was part of the opposition, the Coalition avenir Québec multiplies the denunciations in front of overpayments accumulated valued at approximately $ 1.5 billion since 2008. The CAQ was talking about tax in disguise and backstab, and his spokesperson on energy, Chantal Soucy, concluded that ” the time has come, therefore, to repay Quebecers “, with the support, the filing of a petition of almost 50,000 names, reminds us of The canadian Press. A new petition is circulating, which already includes 24 000 names. However, Mr. Legault invites us today to make the difference between a policy rhetoric of an opposition party and a commitment from the election campaign. Last week, the prime minister went so far as to praise the merits of the overpayment. “It is necessary that there is an incentive for Hydro-Quebec to bring an efficiency gain,” according to the statements cited by the news agency.

The heart of the tension

As to what constitutes the heart of the tugging policy, keep in mind that these overpayments come from the achievement of a higher return than that set by the Régie. They reflect, certainly, the time interval between the preparation and the analysis of the demand tariff, leading to deviations from the forecast. But they reflect a efficiency to control costs and increase productivity, has already defended the Crown corporation. These “efficiency gains” are returned to customers on a basis of 50-50, or 75-25, depending on the performance of Hydro. In part directly, in the form of lower tariff based on a sharing mechanism for variances as authorized by the Régie de l’énergie in 2014. In part, indirectly, Hydro-watershed 75 % of its net profit in dividend to the State.

This mechanism had been suspended as from the first budget, Carlos Leitão, the time of austerity to return to a balanced budget. The fitness of public finance, the redistribution mechanism has been re-enabled in 2017. An amount of $ 45 million for the customer has been accounted for in this title.

In a rate decision rendered in march 2017, the Régie de l’énergie has not been without stress in large strokes that Hydro-Québec “, under-estimated historically its ability to realize efficiency gains in its management, its business process and its activities, leading to an overestimation of annual charges.” For its part, the auditor general acknowledged in his report filed in may 2017 that these gains in productivity were manifested by a limitation of rate increases for customers. The report indicated that the electricity rate average is 49% higher for BC Hydro and 79 % higher for Hydro One ; and that the average increase in annual electricity prices from 2002 to 2017 was 1.4 % in Québec, compared to 3.7 % in Ontario and 4.6 per cent in British Columbia ; that the rate of return on equity (roe alleged divisions regulated Hydro is the lowest rate allowed.

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