Although Nova Scotians aren’t facing a double-digit power rate increase, any hike is going to “hit hard,” says the director of the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank.

“People who can’t afford the rate now ... to have something added to it is going to be very hurtful for families. That’s a given,” said Mel Boutilier.

Residential customers of Nova Scotia Power Inc. are now looking at a 5.7 per cent power rate hike on Jan. 1 — about half of what had been anticipated.

“People on a fixed income ... they don’t have any money to meet (the) increase in prices,” Boutilier said yesterday. “But there’s not much they can do.”

The Utility and Review Board opted yesterday to defer NSP’s recovery of the full cost of producing power until 2013, allowing it to recoup half of its increased fuel costs in 2011 and the balance over the following two years.

The utility had initially argued against deferral, saying it did not want the recovery of costs to be further delayed.

The utility’s rate request was based on the higher cost of cleaner coal purchased to meet the province’s mercury emissions standards, figures the board said it accepted as accurate, subject to a future audit.

It was those numbers that persuaded the board to change its initial opposition to smoothing out cost recovery over three years.

The exact size of rate hikes over the next two years will be driven in large part by the cost of fuel.

– with files from The Canadian Press