One of the first renewable energy customers in the province says Nova Scotia Power’s recent attempt at charging net metering customers an access fee demonstrates a longstanding need for government intervention.
“We need to significantly rewrite the legislation and rules through which Nova Scotia Power operates,” said Neal Livingston, a documentary filmmaker.
Shortly after Premier Tim Houston stated the province would take necessary legislative steps to prevent the approval of the service access charge for net metering customers, Nova Scotia Power’s president issued a statement saying the proposal would be withdrawn from its 2022 General Rate Application.
“That’s actually completely precedent-setting because since the utility became privately owned, the province has never stepped in and used its legislative powers to do something. And the utility really had no other choice except to withdraw that application,” Livingston stated.
The province has vowed to explore further legislative options to protect ratepayers from other hikes proposed in the application that is currently before the provincial Utility and Review Board.
“Nova Scotians are cash-strapped and when we see profits into the company, and bonuses, it’s a hard piece for Nova Scotia rate-payers to swallow that their increase is going up,” said Tory Rushton, Nova Scotia’s minister of natural resources and renewables.
Nova Scotia Power has repeatedly stated that its proposed rate increases are necessary in order to meet the province’s climate goals of operating on 80 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
The company has stated that the government-mandated target of shutting down fossil fuel-burning plants by 2030 comes with an increase in financial pressures.
Opposition pressure is also on the heels of the province. Liberal MLA Iain Rankin wants Houston to proclaim the amended Energy Act in order to transfer the authority to regulate Nova Scotia Power’s initiatives, like the net-metering program, back to elected officials.
“It was sitting on my desk when I came into the office. Why it was never proclaimed I’m not sure, but we do plan on enacting on that piece,” Rushton said.
Livingston says the ordeal also illustrates the need to can the approval powers of the unelected UARB.
“We can make decisions through our elected officials that are good decisions,” he said.
The UARB is now accepting public submissions on Nova Scotia Power’s general rate application.