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NSP floats the idea of monthly conservation surcharge

Nova Scotia Power is proposing a $1 per month surcharge on customers to pay for conservation programs.

Nova Scotia Power is proposing a $1 per month surcharge on customers to pay for conservation programs.

The $23 million raised annually would be invested into lowering electricity use, but would also go partly towards protecting the power company’s bottom line.

NSP vice-president Alan Richardson presented the programs as a win-win yesterday before bringing his case to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. He said the conservation programs will mean less greenhouse gasses spewed into the environment and lower costs to consumers in the long run.

“The savings that these programs generate more than offset the costs, so customers end up way ahead,” Richardson told reporters before the UARB hearing.

It will also help NSP avoid having to build a new power plant. The utility is getting close to its maximum energy capacity and projects it can save $1 billion over 25 years if it can lower energy demand instead of building an expensive new plant.

But with lower energy use comes lower revenue, and part of the application presented to the UARB involves protecting the company’s profit margins.

Richardson said lower usage will reduce some costs, but many expenses -- such as maintaining plants and power poles -- stay the same regardless of how much power is used. The company therefore wants to use a “cost reallocation mechanism” to keep income steady.

“It will include an adjustment to continue to collect the current fixed costs, which are not affected by reduced sales,” he said.

But Richardson said the surcharge would not lead to extra money in NSP’s pockets. He claimed the company’s profits would stay even, while consumers save in the end and 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions would be cut.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil, who has been highly critical of NSP during the election campaign, said he supports the program but someone other than the utility should be running it.

“I don’t believe this in any way should be subsidizing Nova Scotia Power’s bottom line,” McNeil said.

 
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