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Saskatchewan's electricity utility to pay into nuclear fund, clean electricity costs

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The Saskatchewan government's electrical utility is to remit carbon charges into a nuclear energy investment fund, the province announced Monday.

It said the fund would be used to help Saskatchewan deploy its first small modular reactor, and that carbon charges would also go toward clean electricity operating costs to keep power rates affordable.

SaskPower, which is the province's electricity utility, collects carbon charges from ratepayers, and the province has authority over how to invest the money.

Environment Minister Christine Tell said the province plans to have a net-zero electricity grid by 2050.

"However, this transition cannot sacrifice the affordability and reliability of our power grid," Tell said in a news release.

"The changes announced today support Saskatchewan's clean electricity transition priorities while maintaining affordability and competitiveness for families, businesses and industries."

The province said carbon charges from other heavy emitters are to be deposited into a technology fund for projects that reduce, sequester and capture emissions.

It said carbon revenues and expenses from heavy emitters are to be tracked through the provincial budget.

Last week, Saskatchewan announced it won't collect carbon charges on electrical heat starting Jan. 1.

The province said Monday those eligible are to see a 60 per cent reduction on the rate rider portion of their electricity bill, amounting to an average savings of $21 per month.

The government expects the savings will apply to 30,000 customers. It said it already knows which customers are eligible, but people can apply online for an exemption.

Premier Scott Moe has also said SaskEnergy plans to not remit carbon charges for natural gas to Ottawa starting at the beginning of the year.

The move would break federal law, potentially resulting in fines and jail time for SaskEnergy executives.

The province has introduced legislation to shield executives from being punished and puts the burden on the minister.

The federal government has said it expects all provinces to follow the law.

It says carbon pricing offers rebates, putting more money back into the pockets of most Canadians, and proceeds are returned to the provinces where the charges are collected.

Ottawa has exempted those who use home heating oil from having to pay the charges, a move Moe says is unfair as it largely helps those in Atlantic Canada.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.

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