Nova Scotia Power says it won't be slashing rates during COVID-19 pandemic
Company says measures to help customers include relaxing timelines for bill payments, waiving late fees
Amid calls for a reduction in power rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nova Scotia Power says the company is not planning to reduce its rates, but is instead focusing on helping its most vulnerable customers.
Hector Morrison, a resident of Glace Bay, N.S., said he called Nova Scotia Power last week and would like to see the company slash its rates.
"Everybody is suffering. People are losing their jobs, people are losing their income, they don't know if they'll be able to pay for their oil or power," Morrison said.
"There's a lot of people out there hurting more than me, but we're all hurting in this terrible time. If Ontario Power can do it, if BC Hydro can do it, why can't Emera do it?"
The first two utilities are Crown corporations and have announced plans to cut rates, while Emera — the parent company of Nova Scotia Power — is a private entity.
"There's an increase in power usage right now because everybody is confined to their homes. You're paying more, and [Nova Scotia Power is] going to benefit from that," Morrison said.
"I think it's only incumbent on their part to show a little bit of empathy for the people and what they're going through at this time."
What Nova Scotia Power is doing
In an email, Nova Scotia Power spokesperson Jacqueline Foster said the company is relaxing timelines for bill payments for residential customers and small businesses, waiving late fees and suspending all disconnections for 90 days.
Nova Scotia Power and Emera have donated $1 million to the Home Energy Assistance Top-up (HEAT) Fund, which helps low-income individuals and families pay their energy bills.
Foster said they have also extended the deadline to apply for this fund indefinitely and have waived the application restriction, so that families who already received funding last year can apply again in 2020.
No meter readings during pandemic
The utility has also suspended reading meters while the province is under a state of emergency. This means monthly bills will be estimated using electricity consumption from the same season during the last 12 months.
Foster said once meter reading resumes, "if a customer used more electricity than estimated, their next bill will be adjusted to reflect that and they would pay the difference. If a customer didn't use as much as electricity as was estimated, that too would be reflected and they would pay less on their next bill."
Foster said information is being sent to customers about how estimated billing works.
In the meantime, customers can take photos of their meter and submit it by email to the company so the bill reflects actual usage. To do this, the customer should:
- Email their photo to email@example.com using the subject line "Photo Meter Read."
- Be sure to include the meter number, account holder's name and the service address.
Foster said people are encouraged to call customer care if they are struggling with bill payments.
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