The government introduced several pieces of legislation into the house last week, aimed at cutting electricity costs for the consumers.
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They are interesting measures such as capping Nova Scotia Power executives' salaries that can be covered by ratepayers as well as nixing their bonuses.
It's difficult to pin down how much ratepayers would save, since there are so many types of users. Some heat their homes with it, while others are large industries. The best anyone could give for an estimate was surprisingly from Nova Scotia Power. Their figure was about $1 per year for each customer.
At least it's a start.
Whether any other legislation comes in that will make a difference is hard to say, but the way the government is going at it misses the heart of the matter. Our power costs are high because we use one of the most expensive sources of power.
Nova Scotia is reliant on coal for about 57 per cent of its power needs. Most of this coal needs to be shipped in from elsewhere, because it is somewhat cleaner to burn then the coal buried under us. We are at the whim of the companies that Nova Scotia Power buys from.
In an effort to reduce emissions, the provincial government set out targets for reduction over the next decade. They also introduced Efficiency Nova Scotia along with the beleaguered Energy Efficiency Charge on the power bill. Neither of these are new, introduced several governments ago. Those both increase the cost to us.
There are a lot of demands out there for Nova Scotia Power. We want to change to cleaner sources. We want them to reduce emissions. We want better infrastructure. We want our power rates lower.
It's a tall order.
It doesn't help that we are sucking back the power at an ever-increasing rate. The number of televisions, computers and cellphones in an average person is nearly one for one, if not over in some cases.
Though those that use more will pay more, the overall costs to generate that power has to go up too. Hence someone with no electronics but electric heat is going to see their bill go up with the rest of us.
Picking on the executives and their salaries is a good start, though it is more of a political move rather than a real savings. We need to reign in all the surcharges tacked on as well, though that will be difficult to wade through. Helping us save electricity by sponsoring efficiency programs is a good idea as well. But don't expect any major savings anytime soon.
Will we ever see any major savings on our power bills? Comparing with the rest of the country, it's not likely. Our rates are high, but comparable to most other provinces. Those with significantly lower costs usually have massive amounts of hydro generated electricity.
That's not to say we shouldn't try. Nova Scotia Power has a monopoly, albeit a regulated one. The only way to change anything is by complaining.
Now we are finally seeing some of this complaining actually making a difference. It's been a long time coming, and hopefully just the beginning.