Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Power wants to change performance standards it keeps failing to meet

The utility has failed to meet reliability and customer service standards 4 years in a row.

Power utility was fined $250K in 2020 after missing nearly half its performance marks

A Nova Scotia Power employee works in this 2019 file photo. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

After failing to meet reliability and customer service standards four years in a row, Nova Scotia Power is asking regulators to change nine of the 13 measurements used to assess its performance.

But the company insists it is not trying to weaken standards to make itself look better.

"The revisions the company has proposed are not intended as a relaxation of the current performance standards, but rather were brought forward following several years' experience with how the current standards operate," spokesperson Jackie Foster said in an email.

NSP was fined $250,000 by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board when it missed six of 13 standards in 2019, including targets for the frequency and length of power outages.

It was the third consecutive year Nova Scotia Power failed to meet its standards.

In 2020, NSP again failed to achieve two performance standards: length of circuit interruption and percentage of customer bills that can be estimated.

Goal is to improve service, board says

"It is concerning to the board that N.S. Power does not seem to recognize that a fundamental outcome anticipated from establishing the performance standards is to produce continuous improvement in reliability, customer service, and storm response," the board wrote in June 2021.

The performance standards were put in place in 2016 in response to widespread criticism after post-tropical storm Arthur left 250,000 customers without power for up to a week in 2014.

This year, the standards are up for a mandatory review.

The company was told to sit down with lawyers representing residential, small business and large customers, but there was no consensus on standards. Instead, Nova Scotia Power submitted its own revisions.

Dorian left a trail of destruction in Nova Scotia, where roads were blocked by downed trees and power lines. Nova Scotia Power wants that impact removed from its 5-year performance average. (CBC)

The regulator remains skeptical.

"Please explain whether those updates and relaxed targets will essentially increase the likelihood of most, if not all, of the standards being satisfied," the utility and review board asked the company as part of the application process.

The utility argues severe weather events are dragging down its overall scores for reliability and customer service.

It wants changes to the majority of the measurements, including:

  • Excluding the impact of Hurricane Dorian from the five-year average.
  • Excluding localized storms from the normal conditions calculation.
  • Removing impacts from the second day of weather events from calculations.
  • Including the use of online self-service tools as part of the requirement to answer customer calls within 30 seconds.

The company wants to fix the thresholds for "major" and "extreme" weather events based on the average from 2015-19 (excluding Dorian) instead of updating thresholds each year to reflect the realities of increasing storm severity and frequency.

NSP said it needs a consistent definition for a "more meaningful comparison" of its results.

Storms getting worse

"As a result of the intensification of storm events, the associated severe event threshold has increased such that powerful weather events that were classified as severe events just a few years ago are now included in 'regular business' reliability calculations, even though the operational response to these severe events is still the same as if they were classified as a major event day or extreme event day," NSP said in response to written questions from the board.

Nova Scotia Power said the changes proposed in its application are intended to address the primary areas of concern raised by the board and intervenors over the last four years.

Intervenors will file their evidence in the case later this week.

That will include evidence from the consumer advocate representing NSP's 400,000 residential customers.



Paul Withers


Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.