John Merrick

Nova Scotia's consumer advocate, John Merrick, says the Liberals have concocted a short-term price drop. (CBC)

Efficiency Nova Scotia's plan to spend $35 million of ratepayers’ money on rebate and incentive programs next year is in the hands of government regulators, but the consumer advocate is skeptical if customers will actually enjoy any energy savings.

The agency is being overhauled by the Liberal government. During last year’s provincial election, the Liberals campaigned on the promise of lowering power bills by making Nova Scotia Power eat the cost of the charge customers pay for Efficiency Nova Scotia programs.

This spring, the Liberals passed a law that removes the efficiency charge from power bills in 2015. However, the legislation allows Nova Scotia Power to recoup the $35 million over eight years. While customers won’t see a charge for efficiency programs, it could already be factored into their rates.

The program got support from all customer groups at a hearing on Tuesday.

However, the province's consumer advocate, John Merrick, says the Liberals have manufactured a short-term price drop and given Nova Scotia Power much more control over energy savings.

He is skeptical of the plan.

“Nova Scotia Power’s business is to sell electricity. Efficiency Nova Scotia’s business is to cut down the demand for electricity,” said Merrick.

In the future, Efficiency Nova Scotia will sell energy saving programs to Nova Scotia Power, which will buy them provided the programs are cheaper than burning fuel.

Next year, the utility and a renamed efficiency agency will jointly submit an energy saving program. Their relationship remains unclear.

The proposed plan is in the hands of government regulators.