CEO Peter Gregg’s latest announcement that Nova Scotia Power Inc. will delay its application to impose a system access fee on homeowners and small businesses that produce solar power is not a genuine reprieve. In fact, it could be even more harmful to the solar industry in the province. It also underscores the need for major fixes to level the playing field and ensure this kind of cash grab doesn’t happen again. We need to prioritize meeting our climate targets rather than making Nova Scotia Power and parent company Emera even richer than they are now.
“It’s an interesting tactical move on the part of Nova Scotia Power,” says Tynette Deveaux with Sierra Club Canada Foundation, which launched the “Power to the People Campaign” in response to what Sierra Club Canada sees as a bully utility monopoly. “It seems to me that Nova Scotia Power is trying to buy some time in the hopes that it can diffuse the strong reaction from the public and solar industry. But I think Nova Scotia Power showed its true colours this past week: it’s a utility monopoly that wants only to maximize its profits—and it will do so at the expense of small businesses, homeowners, and people struggling with poverty made worse by Covid.”
“We’re pleased to see that today Premier Tim Houston announced his government will be intervening to stop the proposed net-metering charge,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director for Sierra Club Canada. “However, this doesn’t change the fact that Nova Scotia Power is reaping millions of dollars off the backs of hardworking Nova Scotians, who are doing their damndest to respond to the climate crisis. NSP has been making it hard all along for people to participate in the transition to clean renewable energy. That’s what private profit-driven monopolies do.”
The latest announcements from Peter Gregg and Premier Tim Houston do not address Nova Scotia Power’s proposed 10 percent rate increase over 3 years (even higher for small businesses). Nor do they address Nova Scotia Power’s plan to further delay the shut down of coal. The corporation says it will now shut down its Trenton 5 unit in 2024, a year later than planned. NSP operates 8 coal-fired power units in this province and is well aware of the government-mandated shutdown of coal by 2030.
“It’s almost like it’s holding us for ransom,” says Deveaux. “Nova Scotia Power has told us it needs more money from customers and from government to get going on the transition to clean renewable energy. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Power and its parent company are raking in millions, if not billions, of dollars. The CEO of Emera Scott Balfour got a $1 million dollar raise in 2020, bringing his yearly compensation to nearly $8 million. And they want to charge people who are struggling to survive the financial turmoil of two years of Covid an extra 10 percent for their electricity. There is something seriously wrong with this picture.”
The Nova Scotia government’s intervention in response to the solar system access fee, while welcomed, will not resolve the issue of Nova Scotia Power dragging its heels on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and placing the financial burden for this transition on Nova Scotians.
“Most Nova Scotians aren’t even aware yet that Nova Scotia Power’s plan to get off coal power is to transition some of its coal-fired units to natural gas, which is really fracked gas that emits global-heating methane emissions,” says Fitzgerald. “The corporation is also talking about building a brand new fracked gas plant somewhere between Cape Breton and Halifax. How green is that?”
Sierra Club Atlantic Canada Chapter is not calling off its campaign—and won’t until there is genuine progress on energy democracy and affordable clean renewable energy in this province.
See our Call to Action here.
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Beyond Coal Atlantic Campaign Coordinator
Sierra Club Canada
National Programs Director
Sierra Club Canada