Fall Regional Committee Meetings

by NSPower 19. December 2012 19:20

Earlier this year, Nova Scotia Power set up regional committees, and invited councillors and staff from municipalities throughout the province to join us to discuss issues related to electricity that are important to their communities. We began with a discussion focused on service reliability, and also delved into topics including street lights, emergency preparedness, and rates. We committed to having a second round of meetings in the fall, following the municipal elections.

We completed the Round 2 over the last three weeks, with members of the Executive, Customer Services, Operations, and Communications participating in sessions in Sydney, Port Hawkesbury, Truro, New Glasgow, Yarmouth, Greenwood, Halifax, and Lunenburg. (For more information on the committees, please visit www.nspower.ca/reliability.)

The discussion this time around has expanded to include subjects beyond reliability. We’re pleased with the feedback we’ve been receiving on reliability. The time and money we’ve invested – we’re completing the third year of a five-year, $100-million program – is starting to show results, and community representatives have expressed a higher level of satisfaction with the electrical system’s performance.

One popular topic of discussion throughout the regions has been street lights. The first session this season was in Sydney, and some councillors there were understandably upset with delays in the replacement of burnt out lights in their districts. Mark Sidebottom, our Vice President of Power Generation and Delivery, assured them we would follow up immediately. A NS Power staffer was sent out to find the burnt out lights and draw up a list. With this now complete, our crews are working to get the blown lights replaced with new LED street lights.

In New Glasgow, Claudette Porter, our Vice President of Finance and Information Technology, heard about a different issue regarding street lights. Councillors in the District of St. Mary’s feel like they have more lights than they need. They do not want all of the lights replaced with LED lights, instead, they would like to have a say in which lights get replaced and have the rest of the lights taken down. We have agreed to look into this and appropriate area experts plan to visit to discuss the matter further with the councillors to determine a course of action.

In Port Hawkesbury, councillors expressed satisfaction with the street light conversions to date. They were interested in the timeline for the work we’re doing to move power lines that are presently deep in the woods to roadside. They would like to see the work happen more quickly. David McGregor, our General Manager of Technical and Construction Services, explained that we are finishing year three of our five-year reliability investment program, and that work is being prioritized over those five years, but will be completed in all regions by the end of 2014.

In New Glasgow, Yarmouth, and Cape Breton, we had good discussions with councillors about our customer care procedures. Members of our Customer Care team have been on hand to encourage municipal representatives to have their constituents call us with any questions at 1-800-428-6230. They’re committed to working with customers to resolve any issues and answer any questions customers may have regarding their power bills or the service they receive from NS Power.

Topics such as converting some of our coal fired generating stations to burn natural gas, the use of biomass, and the operation of the biomass plant under construction in Port Hawkesbury have generated lively discussion at various sessions. In Halifax and Greenwood, there was much discussion about renewable energy options, particularly the potential for tidal energy in the Minas Basin. David McGregor (in Halifax) and Claudette Porter (in Greenwood) explained that our parent company, Emera is actively involved in tidal research and development, but right now there isn’t a commercially viable technology.

Affordability of electricity was a hot topic in Greenwood, Lunenburg and with representatives from HRM. Claudette Porter and representatives from our Customer Care team discussed the work we are doing with the Affordable Energy Coalition and other stakeholders to provide more options and support for low-income customers. Already, that collaboration has led to the appointment of a Low Income Advocate within our Customer Care team.

These sessions, like Round 1 last spring, have given us the opportunity to discuss some of the great work being done by our employees across the province, and have helped us identify areas where we can improve service. We look forward to working on those challenges in the new year, and hitting the road for another round of consultation in the spring of 2013.

 

Tags:

Electricity Costs | Environment | Government | Rates | Regulatory Matters

Highest Power Rates in the Country?

by NSPower 14. August 2012 23:37

There are a lot of myths out there. Some, like the legend of Oak Island’s buried treasure, have intrigued Nova Scotians for many years.

As an electric utility, there’s just not much we can say on that one. But there is another myth we can help out with: Nova Scotia has the highest power rates in Canada.

Not true.

Nova Scotians pay less for electricity than residents of Prince Edward Island and often considerably less than residents of Alberta, where the electricity market is deregulated and prices can swing wildly.

Rates here are definitely higher than most of us would like. There are lots of reasons for that, particularly the volatile price of fossil fuels like coal, where our cost per ton has increased over 70% in the last eight years alone. We’re working to create a balanced energy portfolio that will reduce our reliance on any single source of electricity and help stabilize prices into the future. While we’ve made progress, there is much to do. Read more about what we’re doing.

But the highest rates in the country? That’s a myth.

Don’t take our word for it. Each year, Hydro Quebec performs a comprehensive study of electricity prices across Canada that’s known as “superior for a comparison.” (Source) You can read the most recent edition here. BC Hydro performs a similar annual study, found here.

Outside of Canada, residents of New England pay more than nearly anyone in Canada. New Yorkers pay almost double what we do. Hawaii is a dream destination for most of us, unless you’re concerned about electricity costs! Prices in Europe are up to three times as high.

We’re not alone in facing rising electricity costs – they’re going up 46% in Ontario between 2010 and 2015, and 45% in British Columbia between 2011 and 2015.

Of course, we know the only price that matters to Nova Scotians is the price we pay here at home. Electricity remains a cost effective option for home heating, as shown by the number of Nova Scotians using heat pump technology in new homes. But we know that for many, the rising cost of living, including electricity, is a struggle, and it can be a challenge to business as well. We understand that, and we’re working hard to keep electricity prices as low as possible, because we know the affordability of electricity is important to the quality of life in Nova Scotia and the provincial economy.

It’s also our legislated mandate to provide the lowest cost electricity we can. Many of the current discussions about rate increases, including those to take place during next months’ regulatory hearings, are an important part of ensuring we meet that mandate.

In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll be talking more about the changes underway at Nova Scotia Power and what they mean for Nova Scotians. We’ll also debunk some of the other myths out there. As always, we invite your feedback in the comments section below.

-NS Power

Tags:

Coal | Electricity Costs | Environment | Rates | Regulatory Matters

Robin McAdam

A Cleaner Megawatt is Nova Scotia Power's company blog. Most posts are from Robin McAdam, Executive Vice President, Strategic Business & Customer Services, though other leaders within NS Power offer their own insight into issues relevant to Nova Scotians with additional posts on the blog.

We’ve created this blog to share and discuss news, thoughts and ideas on renewable energy with you. Please feel free to provide comments or feedback related to the topics discussed. Note that comments which are significantly off-topic or contain offensive language, personal attacks, or spam may be removed.

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