Nova Scotia

NDP bill would tie Nova Scotia Power profits to performance standards

MLAs for the New Democratic Party want to tie the profits of Nova Scotia Power to reliability and other performance measures they say are in the public interest.

Premier says he's considering variety of options in light of rate increase application

Nova Scotia Power's Tufts Cove generating station in Dartmouth, N.S., is shown. (Dave Irish/CBC)

MLAs for the New Democratic Party want to tie the profits of Nova Scotia Power to reliability and other performance measures they say are in the public interest.

The party tabled a bill Wednesday that would require the company's rate of return be determined by measures like reliability, decarbonization, customer satisfaction, energy efficiency and a reduction in energy poverty and power bills.

Claudia Chender, the NDP's natural resources and renewables critic, said the recent introduction of the general rate application from NSP reminded everyone that their power is in the control of "a privately owned company that really is responsible, mostly, to its shareholders."

"And that's why we saw the application for a huge rate increase in the middle of a massive cost-of-living crisis and why we saw an attempt to essentially kill the solar industry," she said in an interview at Province House.

Nova Scotia Power's application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board is for a 10 per cent rate increase over several years, while being able to maintain its guaranteed rate of return of nine per cent.

Chender said her party intends to seek intervener status in the company's application.

But she said the party is also looking at what it can do through legislation to address customer concerns about the proposed rate increase and problems with reliability in service. She said the NDP plans to table more legislation.

"Because while it is independently regulated by the UARB, we design the legislation that the UARB relies on and so we have a lot of opportunity to make things right for Nova Scotians in terms of their energy supply and that's what we're trying to do."

A woman with dark, curly hair listens to questions from a reporter.
Claudia Chender is the NDP MLA for Dartmouth South. (Robert Short/CBC)

Chender said the way Nova Scotia Power is regulated now doesn't respond to current climate conditions, which call for further expansion of green energy. Utilities are incentivized for selling power and building big plants, she said.

Chender said the aim should instead be to use less power and have it be more renewable.

"And so, in fact, our regulatory system is at odds with the future that we want to see," she said, noting that such a future is enshrined in legislation passed last fall to increase green energy targets and get the province off coal.

Premier Tim Houston has said he's opposed to the rate increase Nova Scotia Power is seeking and that the government wants intervener status in the application hearing.

Need for rebalancing, says premier

The premier told reporters Wednesday at Province House that the relationship between the company and ratepayers needs to be "rebalanced."

"We'll do everything we can to protect the ratepayers of this province," he said.

Houston said his government is looking at a variety of options it could take, including the "strong possibility" of introducing legislation of its own this sitting. He said he would also review Chender's bill.

The premier stopped short of saying Nova Scotia Power's rate of return should be tied to performance standards, but he said there should be standards and penalties when those standards are not met.

"They have an obligation to provide power to Nova Scotians and when, for whatever reason, they don't do that we should be looking at why that is and holding them to a certain level of performance."