Nova Scotia Power's near monopoly questioned

NOVA SCOTIA - The provincial government continues to give Nova Scotia Power (NSP) a virtual monopoly over three things - the production, distribution and sale of electricity in Nova Scotia. This arrangement has restricted the production of renewable energy, has run down the rural distribution infrastructure and increases the cost of electricity to consumers.

Firstly, with regards to the production of energy, small-scale wind, solar, hydro and tidal projects could provide a lot more of our electricity if feed-in laws were changed to require NSP to purchase power generated from local producers. This is done in many parts of the U.S., Europe and Ontario. NSP's present "net metering" plan will only give you a credit; it's like raising and selling chickens to Superstore but getting paid in chicken credits for your own use only, no cash.

Changing the feed-in laws would cost the province nothing but could encourage rural Nova Scotians to become profitable small energy producers.

Also, the local production of renewable energy could provide a huge boost to rural economies. There is a growing shortage of small energy production equipment and installers in Nova Scotia.

Manufacturing this equipment could provide much-needed jobs for Nova Scotians and community college programs could train installers for work in rural Nova Scotia.

Secondly, concerning the distribution of energy, statistics now show that since being privatized in 1992 NSP power outages are increasing and getting longer. Fewer linesmen is one of the reasons. In-house technician positions have been cut by 23 per cent since 1992.

Thirdly, regarding costs to the consumer, NSP profit increases of almost 11 per cent last year are being maintained by increasing prices. Almost 80 per cent of the electricity we use is now generated from cheap Colombian coal because NSP maintains that Nova Scotian coal is too dirty. But when imported fuel becomes too expensive due to rising transportation costs, NSP will be faced with increased pollution costs from dirty coal.

NSP is already the biggest air polluter in the province.

We, the consumer, will pay for the dirty power. Locally produced clean energy will provide the cheapest electricity in the future but the transition to these renewable energy sources doesn't add to NSP's profit margins today.

Our provincial government needs to end NSP's monopoly over the production, distribution and sale of electricity. We may be better served with three separate specialized companies. By simply changing feed-in laws so small producers can make a profit from their investments, production of more small-scale renewable energy could greatly benefit rural economies.

By creating a separate company for distribution, smaller utilities such as Riverport Electric could keep lines in better repair.

And if local, clean, renewable electricity was promoted, many Nova Scotians probably wouldn't mind price increases, knowing that we are building a secure energy future.


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