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Province moves to kill Nova Scotia Power’s solar rate proposal

Nova Scotia Power then announces it will withdraw its application to charge the fee

4 min read
A line of small solar panels on the side of a Dalhousie building.
caption A Dalhousie University building on University Avenue in Halifax sports solar panels on its side.
Isabel Buckmaster

The province says it will bring in new regulations to stop Nova Scotia Power’s proposal to charge fees for net-metered solar installations in a move that protects the solar industry.

In a news release on Wednesday, the province said it will also add “enhancements to the commercial and community solar programs,” that will “make solar power more accessible to everyone.”

a screenshot of Premier Tim Houston in an office.
caption Premier Tim Houston at his press conference today on Nova Scotia Power’s solar proposal.
Isabel Buckmaster

“There was a part of the application that discouraged investment in solar, and certainly had a negative impact on those that had previously made investments and that was inappropriate in our view,” said Premier Tim Houston at a news conference Wednesday.

“We wanted to step in as an urgent matter just to show the industry that you can proceed so that you’re not going to be penalized for investing in solar,” he said.

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In the release, he said the government “will bring forward the necessary legislative and regulatory framework that will protect ratepayers and the solar industry in Nova Scotia.”

A few hours after the premier’s announcement, Nova Scotia Power in turn announced it would formally withdraw the application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board for the charge.

The company had applied last week for a “system access charge” of $8 per kilowatt monthly on net-metered installations.

“Once the announcement for the system access charges came through … we did have some cancellations. There were a couple of people that just came in and said, ‘Like, listen, I’m not up for it,’ ” said John Jennex, the owner of Ascent Solar Technologies, a local solar installation company.

“So this morning, Premier Houston stepped up, kind of said exactly what we were hoping he would.”

Houston said that he wants to “meet our renewable targets” and that the province will do everything they can to do that.

“Our obligation is to the ratepayers of the province so we’re exploring all options,” said Houston. “We’ll do our analysis, we’ll understand the options and then we will act but there should be no confusion as to where our allegiance plays and that’s to Nova Scotians.”

A city-owned building with a mural in the Halifax Commons.
caption Solar panels line the top of a building on the Halifax Commons.
Isabel Buckmaster

In the release, Houston said that they want changes that “support the greening of the grid, not discourage it.”

“To see the province after hearing all the outcry, taking direct action to create legislation to prevent this from actually happening, that’s amazing,” said Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell.

“Like it truly is the definition of power to the people. There was a clear united voice and the province said, ‘Okay, we hear you, we’ll take care of it.’ ”

“The entire solar sector could have been wiped out because one group, one company, one person, made a decision.”

“It just feels as though (Nova Scotia Power) looks at us as a nuisance and we’re eating away at their client base, the way they framed it to try and pose solar customers against non-solar customers. It’s just super frustrating,” said Jennex.

“For us, we had always viewed (Nova Scotia Power) as a bit of a partner because obviously, we do rely on their transmission to be able to do our job … it just feels like all good faith is kind of washed away right now.”

Houston mirrored that thought, saying he thinks “it’s time to look at every aspect of the relationship between Nova Scotians and Nova Scotia Power.”

“I think now is the time to have a very serious discussion on what is the best path forward for electrical generation and utilities in the province of Nova Scotia,” said Mitchell. “Is it in our best interest that we have one operator who owns the entire grid?”

power metres on Barrington street
caption Power meters line the side of a building on Barrington Street in Halifax.
Isabel Buckmaster

The province has 4,100 net metering customers. For new customers exploring the solar industry, the change would have left them with a payback period longer than the life expectancy of their panels.

“Now that companies and the people know that there’s a future for their investment in solar, I think we’ll see the industry continue to grow, which is exactly where we need to go,” said Mitchell.

His town’s project, Energize Bridgewater, aims to lower energy costs for Bridgewater’s inhabitants.

“But I’m still so disappointed in Nova Scotia Power … there have been some lines crossed killing jobs, working against climate change, keeping people in energy poverty, like any one of those should have been a trigger for a bad business plan.”

In its application, Nova Scotia Power also asked to increase electricity rates for residential customers by at least 10 per cent over the next three years. Houston said that the province will explore protecting these customers as well.


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