The 5 Best on Electricity Rates

There are many ideas circulating from the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives about how to tackle rising electricity rates in Nova Scotia. Here are the best five that all parties should support.

1. Moving forward with Newfoundland and Nova Scotia’s Lower Churchill Falls hydro project. This project will provide a generation of stable, sustainable power.

2. Upgrading the electricity grid between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This would allow cheap hydro to come our way from Quebec.

3. Continuing with Nova Scotia’s COMFIT program. Providing a secure supply of clean energy at stable prices with community-owned renewable energy projects is a unique, made-in-Nova Scotia solution.

4. Harnessing the energy of the Bay of Fundy. Nova Scotia’s bid to become a North American leader in tidal energy needs to continue to take steps forward. We could be an energy exporter if successful.

5. Keep the HST off home heating. Putting this tax back on would not be politically-wise, and more importantly would be noticed immediately by consumers. Just because it was an NDP idea is not a reason to reverse it.


Stephen McNeil’s Brownout

Before the summer break, a Liberal supporter asked us to write a post about what we thought of the Liberal proposal to transfer the costs of Efficiency Nova Scotia from “consumers” to “shareholders”.

Right now, in addition to the tax taken off your power bill, there is a charge for energy efficiency programs that reduce your power usage. The Liberals believe this is a “tax”, and say people who own stock in Emera, the “shareholders”, should pay.

The problem? It’s a Liberal shell game. If the cost is not on power bills, it would be paid for through increased rates.

Efficiency Nova Scotia is independent of both Nova Scotia Power and the Nova Scotia government. Losing that independent status would make its moves political ones – that would be a mistake.

And giving control of Efficiency Nova Scotia to Emera? As Christopher Majka pointed out in his Chronicle Herald editorial:

Transferring funding of Efficiency Nova Scotia to NSP would be self-defeating… NSP is in the business of selling power (thus increasing consumption), not conserving it… Keeping Efficiency Nova Scotia independent keeps it honest and focused on the objective of reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency and conservation in Nova Scotia. This saves money for consumers.

Majka points out that saving electricity costs 2.5 cents per kw/hr. That’s a lot less than imported coal. Energy efficiency keeps money in your wallet, and away from NS Power, in addition to being good for the environment.

From a political perspective, it is important to note that Efficiency Nova Scotia is regulated by the URB and its cost (not a “tax,” but a cost for the service ENS provides) was set by the URB. Despite McNeil’s claims, the NDP government doesn’t control the agency, which is a non-profit corporation with no formal links to the government.

Is Stephen McNeil in over his head on energy policy? His latest TV commercial, which says he will break the power monopoly by allowing multiple companies to sell power to consumers, suggests he may very well be. That plan flopped in other provinces.

Send us your feedback out McNeil’s energy plan. We’ll print the best responses next week.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Baillie

Jamie Baillie and the Conservatives continue to tell their political base in Nova Scotia that it is the NDP’s efforts on growing renewable energy and fighting climate change, and not the high price of coal, that is increasing power rates. We’ve written about Baillie’s unforced error on energy before: here and here.

But when he’s talking to a different audience, such as the National Press Club, Baillie offers a very different view on hydro-electricity, coal power and electricity prices:

Jamie Baillie: I am an opposition leader… This is one of those times when I actually completely agree with what the government is doing and have said so in the legislature… Coal is dirty and expensive and getting more expensive and electricity prices continue to climb in my region as a result – which is a hardship for our industrial base and manufacturing… This agreement provides an opportunity to give Atlantic Canada a long-term fixed-price to a clean, green supply of electricity… This may be the single, greatest way that by working together we can kick start real, true sustainable long term economic growth for our region… I commit my party to making sure we will use this as a start of a whole new age.

The NDP understand coal prices are driving electricity costs up and that cheap hydro and community-owned small-scale renewables are solutions to rate increases. The Liberals say much the same. And Jamie Baillie? It depends on the audience.

The Conservatives have lately taken to claiming that Nova Scotians pay the highest rates for electricity in the country. If we stay fixed to coal, that may become true. Right now it’s false. Take a look at this chart from Hydro Quebec and take note of the price of electricity in hydro-rich provinces like BC, Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland and coal-reliant Alberta. Lower-priced hydro will help bring a healthier mix to our electricity and keep rates stable.

Average electricity prices in Canada.