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.