Efficiency Nova Scotia boss hopes to protect independence

The head of Nova Scotia's energy efficiency agency said he wants to see its independence maintained in the face of a dramatic overhaul of its funding planned by the province's incoming government.

Liberals want Nova Scotia Power to pay for energy savings programs

Stephen McNeil said he'd make the utility pay $46 million a year to cover Efficiency Nova Scotia programs that reduce the amount of electricity used by homes and businesses. (CBC)

The head of Nova Scotia's energy efficiency agency said he wants to see its independence maintained in the face of a dramatic overhaul of its funding planned by the province's incoming government.

"Certainly we wouldn't want to see a situation where its dependent on the utility itself directly in terms of their determining what level of activity would happen," says Efficiency Nova Scotia CEO Allan Crandlemire.

The Liberals pledged to make Nova Scotia Power shareholders — not customers —  pay the $46 million annual cost of running Efficiency Nova Scotia. The non-profit organization delivers a host of programs to save consumers money.

The program is paid for by a charge of about $4 per bill.

"We'll certainly be having discussions with the new government around how they can maintain the funding and how they can maintain the independence of the energy efficiency activity in Nova Scotia," Crandlemire told CBC News in his first interview since the Liberals were elected.

"As long as the funding is secure I don't think there will be an issue."

Efficiency Nova Scotia CEO Allan Crandlemire (CBC)

Crandlemire was speaking during a break at an international conference of energy experts in Halifax. The two-day event was hosted by Efficiency Nova Scotia.

The Liberal Party's plan to shift the cost of energy saving programs was greeted with skepticism and dismissed as unrealistic by one conference participant.

"The idea that it's going to come from the utility, Nova Scotia Power, well their money can only come from ratepayers as well. There is not this magic pool of infinite money these shareholders have," said Peter Love, president of the Energy Services Association of Canada. The group is made up of large firms that deliver energy saving programs to business.

"Shareholders are only able to get their money from ratepayers so it's a bit circular to me."

The Liberals said they will legislate a reduced rate of return to shareholders to pay for Efficiency Nova Scotia programs. It's a move Love called a "very big deal" to the utility.

He said if there is a problem with Nova Scotia Power's rate of return then the Utility and Review Board should lower it.

Kyley Harris, a spokesperson for the incoming Liberal government, said they are committed to energy efficiency programs, but maintains ratepayers will be spared the cost in future.

Details are pending on how that will happen.

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