Nova Scotians’ power bills will likely go up as the government’s conservation department becomes an arms-length corporation.

Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks yesterday unveiled the board of directors of Efficiency Nova Scotia, which will take over from Conserve Nova Scotia.

“On the one hand it’s independent of government, on the other hand it’s independent of Nova Scotia Power,” said board chair William Lahey, a Dalhousie University professor and former deputy environment and labour minister.

The move erases about $27 million from the province’s books, but that will now come from electricity ratepayers.

ENS will be funded by power surcharges. It also takes over Nova Scotia Power’s existing efficiency program of $22 million.

The goal of ENS is to slow down the consumption of a province racing towards its power capacity.

“In the long term it’s going to be cheaper than some of the other options, such as building another billion-dollar coal fired power plant, which is otherwise what we might have to do,” Lahey said.

“It may be more expensive on a month-to-month or year-to-year basis, but in the long-term it’s actually a good financial strategy for Nova Scotia.”

The target switch over date is March 31. The other four board members include Carol MacCulloch, president of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia; engineer Hector Jacques; Michele Wood-Tweel, CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nova Scotia; and Deputy Environment Minister Nancy Vanstone.

The board chair will make $1,500 per month and $500 each day the board meets. Board members make $1,050 per month and $350 each meeting day, which includes yesterday’s press conference.

The pay is comparable to similar groups like the Workers’ Compensation Board.

Utility board

The Utility and Review Board will oversee ENS and have to approve any power rate increases. The change was recommended in a 2008 report by Dal Professor David Wheeler.