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LETTER: NSP smart meter application must include Efficiency NS

Last Thursday, Nova Scotia Power Inc. submitted its Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), or “smart metering,” application to the province’s Utility and Review Board (UARB). If approved, NS Power’s application would see new smart meters installed in every building in Nova Scotia serviced by NS Power.

The project will require investment of $131 million over three years. Installation begins in 2018 and is to be completed by the end of 2020.

On its surface, the application looks attractive. Smart meters collect and save electricity consumption data from the customer every 15 minutes. NS Power says the smart meters will reduce its costs and have advantages to customers who engage with their own data. But the Ecology Action Centre says there are serious concerns with the proposed plan and its claims relating to energy affordability and renewable integration, and a striking lack of co-ordination with the energy-efficiency utility, Efficiency Nova Scotia.

Why is it that we had to put a cap on the obvious solution to energy poverty in Nova Scotia – energy efficiency – but our power utility submits an expensive application that doesn’t have a clear benefit to ratepayers? We need a clear plan for co-operation with Efficiency Nova Scotia, and a clear plan for integrated community-owned renewables.

The roll-out of smart meters must be fully integrated with efficiency – for instance if NS Power sends an alert to a customer that its usage has gone higher than the customer wants it to, the alert should include a referral to Efficiency Nova Scotia for help in lowering usage.

We want to ensure that this application doesn’t miss the biggest opportunities for Nova Scotians to benefit from reduced electricity bills.

The application makes economic sense to Nova Scotia Power but does it make economic, social, or environmental sense to Nova Scotians? Nova Scotia Power is a private corporation with the bottom line of profits. As a result, this application is primarily a cost-saving capital investment for Nova Scotia Power. To maximize the benefit to ratepayers, smart meters should be deployed in collaboration with the other public utility, Efficiency Nova Scotia, as well as other companies in the smart energy innovation space.

Emma Norton

Energy Conservation Co-ordinator

Ecology Action Centre

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