Nova Scotia

NSP lowers rate hike proposal

Nova Scotia Power says its residential customers could be paying $6 more a month next year — a little less than what it originally wanted.

Nova Scotia Power says its residential customers could be paying $6 more a month next year — a little less than what it originally wanted.

The utility has agreed to take in less money in a deal with the provincial consumer advocate and some of its major customers.

"All in all I think it's been a significant and a very good settlement for residential customers," said consumer advocate John Merrick.

The agreement was announced Monday as a rate hearing was set to begin in Halifax.

Nova Scotia Power is now asking to reduce the profit for its shareholders to $66.5 million, down from the $94.5 million it asked for in the spring.

This means no money from ratepayers for executive bonuses and no more money for tree trimming and storm repairs next year.

For customers, the average rate would increase about five per cent on Jan. 1, rather than 7. 2 per cent. But that number would climb to seven per cent once conservation charges are factored in.

The typical residential customer should expect to pay about $6 a month more, according to Nova Scotia Power.

Rob Bennett, the utility's president and CEO, said the agreement strikes a balance between the rising cost of making electricity and people's wish to keep rates as low as possible.

"I heard what our customers said. I listened to their concerns about executive compensation overall. I'm very happy that we've been able to come to a collaborative solution," he said.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board still has to review the agreement and approve it. Board members and intervenors will ask questions about the settlement on Wednesday.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie calls the deal a "small win" for ratepayers, but he still has questions about the utility's demands.

Baillie said he'll ask the board to do a cost-of-service study to find out what it really costs to provide power to paper mills and other classes of customers.

Residential customers could still face even higher rates. If the review board decides paper mills qualify for a discount, another two per cent could be added to business and residential bills.