09/17/2014 02:02 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:56 EDT

Saskatchewan government approves power rate increases for 2014, 2015

REGINA - The Saskatchewan government has approved higher power rates for consumers, but the increase next year won't be as big as expected.

The province says it has formally approved a 5.5 per cent average increase that went into effect in January for this year.

But another five per cent hike set to kick in next year has been reduced to three per cent.

Bill Boyd, minister responsible for SaskPower, says the rate increases are needed to help replace the utility's aging infrastructure.

He also says with a growing population SaskPower must be able to meet a greater demand for power.

The rate hikes have increased power costs by $5 per month for the average residential customer this year and will increase bills by another $3 per month in 2015.

"The company is always looking for ways to reduce operational costs and find business efficiencies, at the same time balancing the need to invest for Saskatchewan’s future power needs,” Boyd said Wednesday in a release.

SaskPower submitted its rate increase application in October 2013 to the Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel.

At the time it said it needed more money to upgrade the province’s electrical system and keep pace with the growing economy and population.

The NDP says the increase is galling given that SaskPower had proposed a $143 million refurbishment of its head office.

Documents the NDP obtained through a freedom of information request shows the proposed renovations included a rooftop patio with heaters, living walls, executive area upgrades and something referred to as a “penthouse.”

The government said the plan had not been shown to the board and it would never have been approved.

— With files from CKRM