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Cost big issue for customers of NSP

The cost of electricity is one of the issues customers want to talk about during a series of meetings Nova Scotia Power is holding around the province.

Mark Sidebottom, the utility’s vice-president of power generation and delivery, said Wednesday outside of a session in Halifax that customers are making it clear they want stable, predictable rates.

“They’re very interested in cost control,” he told reporters. “We’ve heard a lot from our customers about that, and talking about what we can do into the future.”

Nova Scotia Power is in the process of updating its 25-year system outlook, called an integrated resource plan.

Sidebottom said the plan doesn’t include specific capital projects or energy mix targets but does pinpoint the direction in which generation is headed, depending on various factors that can change.

Nova Scotia relied on coal-fired generation for 63 per cent of its electricity in 2013. More of the fossil fuel was used last year due to high natural gas prices.

The generation road map was first developed in 2007 and updated again two years later.

The utility vice-president told the audience of about 50 people, many of them business community representatives, that the strategic update is timely because of developments since 2009 that have had an impact on electricity planning.

They include the addition of more wind energy to the grid, which requires backup generation, as well as new government-imposed renewable energy targets and emission limits. Meanwhile, industrial use has dropped, due to paper industry woes, and Efficiency Nova Scotia programs are increasing conservation efforts.

Sidebottom said the plan, which will take about a year to finalize, is key but isn’t the only blueprint that Nova Scotia Power uses in its long-term planning.

Besides cost, the other discussion topics at the Halifax session – the sixth of eight meetings around the province this spring – included energy mix and system reliability. There was also discussion about the role technology, including heat pumps, energy storage and net metering, should play in the long term.

Nova Scotia Power has also held meetings in Wolfville, Port Hawkesbury, Sydney, Stellarton and Truro. There are also sessions this week in Bridgewater and Yarmouth.

Followup meetings are slated for the fall, after the utility’s proposed plan is submitted to the Utility and Review Board in October. The provincial regulator must approve the blueprint, which will include input from appointed customer representatives.

More information on the planning process is available at www.- tomorrowspower.ca.

Meanwhile, the province is also in the early stages of its electricity system review. Those public meetings – which fulfil a Liberal campaign promise – will begin later this year. The findings are slated to be released next year.