It’s too bad Nova Scotia Power couldn’t attach a turbine to the steam that came blasting out of people’s heads this week when they got wind of power hikes and generous compensation packages for executives.
Just think of the electricity they could generate with all that free negative energy. They could turn it into a low-cost renewable.
Nova Scotia Power Inc. blew a public fuse Tuesday with its application for a six per cent rate increase over two years. This is the seventh increase in 11 years.

If approved by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, electricity will go up on Jan. 1, 2013, and again on Jan. 1, 2014.
And that’s not all.
John Merrick, the review board’s consumer advocate, waded in with news that there’s more where that came from because costs are being deferred until after 2015.
Adding fuel to public outrage were claims by opposition parties that Nova Scotia pays more for electricity than any other province. Nova Scotia Power disputes this, pointing to a study by Hydro Quebec which finds that Halifax pays the fourth-highest rates in Canada — a small gesture but hardly a vindication for the power company.
And then came news of the pay raises. Nova Scotia Power president and CEO Rob Bennett is compensated $1.15 million, a 23 per cent increase over last year, while Chris Huskilson, president and CEO of Emera Inc, Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, has a total package of $2.99 million.
It was like pouring a barrel of imported crude oil on an already raging bonfire. The optics were brutal. Nova Scotians already struggling to light and heat their houses funding millionaire executives of a regulated monopoly with a guaranteed rate of return. Ouch.
Some critics want the company returned to public ownership. Others want the monopoly broken up. There have been calls for the removal of the guaranteed return of 9.2 per cent.
Much will be said about this in the coming days and weeks, but there are also the large political and global drivers behind the rate increases.
When the Dexter government “invested” millions of tax dollars into failing pulp and paper mills, there was a poison pill in the deal — discounted power rates.
Lost revenues through discounts, shutdowns and slow production meant a revenue shortfall for the power company. And who makes up those losses? Certainly not the power company executives. It’s you and me and the small business down the road.
The other problem here in Nova Scotia is our over-reliance on imported crude oil. Years ago, Nova Scotia failed to heed the warnings of foreign oil spikes and didn’t move to reduce our dependance on foreign supplies.
This left us vulnerable because our energy is coming from regions where the resource has peaked or from places facing political instability. This exposes us to rising prices and potential disruptions in supply.
Larry Hughes, a Dalhousie professor and energy analyst, recently warned of “energy poverty” in Atlantic Canada. He defines this as a household that spends eight to 10 per cent of income on energy.
Global oil price volatility is not in our control, but the extent to which we rely on it is.
Hughes says he wants more of our energy coming from domestic sources such as Alberta tar sands and more affordable natural gas.
The Dexter government has started down the road of renewables with wind and support for the Lower Churchill project. This will eventually reduce our dependence on insecure foreign energy but the transition will require investment and time before we see return.
Perhaps it would have been wiser for Dexter to “invest” in energy security policies rather than in pulp and paper mills with unstable markets and uncertain futures.
Nova Scotia should have started planning its energy security years ago. It didn’t.
Now we are behind the game and facing the spectre of “energy poverty” and a never-ending hamster-wheel run of rate increases.


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