08/01/2011 02:36 EDT | Updated 10/01/2011 05:12 EDT

Hydro-Quebec seeks regulatory approval for 1.7 per cent rate hike in April

MONTREAL - Hydro-Quebec is seeking approval from the province's energy regulator to raise electricity rates by 1.7 per cent, effective next April 1.

The utility said Monday the proposed hike results mainly from the impact of changes to international accounting standards, which makes up more than 50 per cent (1.1 percentage points) of the would-be increase.

Hydro-Quebec is requesting the hike even though it claims the accounting changes will lead to future savings in its financing costs, which will benefit its customers over the long term.

The remaining portion of the increase — 0.6 percentage points — reflects higher supply costs related to new purchases of wind energy in 2012 and higher operating expenses.

If approved, the monthly bill for an average apartment would increase by 82 cents, $2.11 for a small house, $3.01 for an average-sized house and $3.89 for a larger house.

Hydro-Quebec said provincial residents will continue to enjoy some of the lowest electricity rates in North America.

The energy regulator will hold hearings on the rate application within the next few months.

Last March, the regulator ordered Hydro-Quebec to reduce rates by 0.4 per cent in 2011. But over the last eight years, rates have increased by 17 per cent.

Hydro-Quebec Distribution's proposed budget for energy efficiency programs and activities is $233 million. The money will be used to save 696 GWh of energy in 2012 and to develop new initiatives to save a total of 11 TWh by 2015.