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Lower Proposed Power Rate Hike Encouraging, But HRM Still has Concerns
(Thursday, December 16/04)-- Nova Scotia Power’s decision to reduce the amount of its request for power rate increase is encouraging, but Halifax Regional Municipality still has concerns about a number of issues regarding the private corporation’s management and accounting procedures.
Nova Scotia Power advised the Utilities and Review Board (UARB) this week that it is reducing the amount of its proposed rate increase from 14.1 per cent to 8.7 per cent . The move is seen by some as an effort to effect a settlement and therefore, avoid a UARB imposed result.
Councillor Stephen Adams, Chair, HRM Energy and Underground Services Subcommittee, said the proposed rate reduction is welcome news, but HRM would prefer to have at least another day of hearings before the UARB so it can pursue more of its concerns about how Nova Scotia Power is attempting to justify relatively high rate increases.
“Our residents certainly have concerns about the level of service that Nova Scotia Power is providing, particularly at times of public emergency, and we, as a municipality, have concerns that some of the costs assigned to our primary rate category may be arbitrary,” he said. “Our position from the start has been that Nova Scotia Power is paying out too large an amount of its annual profits to its shareholders, and not investing as much as it should in operating and maintenance costs to ensure a reliable source of electricity, at an appropriate cost to the consumer.”
Councillor Adams said HRM’s annual electricity bill is close to $8 million-- about half of that is spent on street lighting and traffic signals. The average increase for HRM would be about 7.5 per cent under the proposal rate settlement.
He said HRM has concerns with how costs are weighted against street and traffic lighting. The municipality is concerned that some weighting factors may be more arbitrary than real, with unnecessary costs in the order of $1.2 million a year directed at government accounts because they will go undefended.
From an environmental perspective, HRM is also pushing Nova Scotia Power, before the UARB, to create a rate class for LED street lighting. It would reduce the energy consumption by 80 - 90 per cent and significantly reduce HRM’s corporate greenhouse gas emissions (by approximately 10%). If all HRM traffic controls were converted to LED, it would save HRM taxpayers about $20,000 per month or about $240,000 annually. The cost of this conversion is approximately $1.3 million, and with a payback period of 4.8 years.
Councillor Stephen Adams
Manager, Environmental Performance (Energy and Utility)
HRM Environmental Management Services
(902) 490- 7061