Nova Scotia Power plans to invest $100 million over the next five years to address what Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil called a “crisis in confidence” over the company’s ability to keep the lights on during storms, and NSP wants the rate payer to fund it.
Speaking to the legislature’s economic development committee yesterday, CEO Rob Bennett admitted reliability has declined since the early 2000s.
“We’ve experienced a number of very significant weather events that have had a negative impact on the power system, primarily trees falling on the lines,” he said. “If we’re going to see winds of more than 100 km/h routinely, once or twice a year in this province, then the fundamental design of the power system needs to change.”
Bennett said NSP is working to reverse the downward trend and will be seeking permission to spend $20 million a year more on improvements, which would cost rate payers about one per cent more per year. Asked if parent company Emera should invest profit into maintenance, he said: “The returns (on shareholder’s investments) are regulated. They’ve actually helped finance the returns we are talking about, so to remove that part of the process is counter-productive.”
McNeil said customers have had enough. “When you have a regulated monopoly and are the only game in town, you don’t have a right to annually send $100 million to Emera and not keep up with general maintenance … and expect the rate payer to dig into their pocket to cover that shortfall.”