Good first step in ‘power’ful change

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Power to the people… amen. A first step has been taken for a more open electrical energy market in Nova Scotia. But, as even the Liberal government cautions, people shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for lower rates.

What consumers pay on their bills is what will matter to most – as opposed to ideological moves about who sells to whom. But undoing a monopoly has to start somewhere; this development is welcome.

The Liberals announced the bill Friday, the Electricity Reform Act, a measure promised in the election campaign.

It comes, interestingly, the same day the Utility and Review Board gave approval to the Maritime Link project – and the Nova Scotia government said with the deal revised it will add its blessing too. That makes two platforms added for future energy needs for Nova Scotians.

Of the Electricity Reform Act, Energy Minister Andrew Younger estimates it will be about two years before consumers get the choice of buying power directly from renewable energy retailers. These new projects could include such sources as biomass, wind, solar and tidal energy.

Nova Scotia Power customers would be allowed to select that option, while customers of a municipal electrical utility would not.

Price-wise, it will be interesting to see whether savings will be there early on. It’s been noted when green energy projects are discussed that the capital cost of building means they don’t come cheap, but represent more stable prices since they aren’t dependent on fossil fuels.

Another optimistic note about this legislation is the incentive it will offer for such renewable energy development. The proposed regulations would allow the entrepreneur of such a project to sell directly to customers.

It should also result in at least a degree of competition.

Undoubtedly people will be impatient, waiting for a break in rates. The Liberals will have to play this out with the public as a lesson in long-term planning: such changes don’t pay off overnight.

Organizations: Liberals, Utility and Review Board, Nova Scotia Power

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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