Consumer advocate says Newpage deal will cost ratepayers
The province's consumer advocate says he thinks the deal to help save the paper mill in Port Hawkesbury could add between $2 million and $7 million to the electrical bills of other Nova Scotians.
John Merrick said the current plan has ratepayers helping to pay the final costs associated with starting a biomass facility at the paper mill and it's unfair to ask other Nova Scotians to help carry the deal.
On Monday, Nova Scotia's Utility and Review Board approved a rate deal that will give the idled pulp mill in Port Hawkesbury cheaper electricity.
Pacific West Commercial Corp. of British Columbia had said it would restart the mill, only if it's able to get the discounted power rate, or a load retention rate (LRR).
"This deal in one very important aspect, puts [more of the] load onto other ratepayers and that's not what a load retention rate is supposed do," Merrick said.
He said a change in provincial law requires the facility to help meet renewable energy rules. One of the associated costs under the new arrangement would be running a biomass boiler at the mill. Nova Scotia Power built the $200 million boiler to supply renewable electricity to the grid and steam for the mill
The provincial government said the biomass plant must operate because its steady output of power will balance any intermittent wind power.
"We have some skepticism if that explanation is really why the province stepped in and did that," he said.
"It's not the job of ratepayers to subsidize operations around the province who decide they cannot afford to pay their fare share of the power bill," Merrick added.