Halifax, Nova Scotia – It is time for Nova Scotia to focus on real energy affordability instead of the dubious and opportunistic politics of energy price increases. In a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia (CCPA-NS) Energy Cost Politics and the Environment in Nova Scotia, energy analyst Brendan Haley looks at government’s July decision to relax mercury emissions standards on Nova Scotia Power.
Haley, a former coordinator for Ecology Action Centre and Research Associate with CCPA-NS says this report is timely as it comes a week before a hearing that is likely to result in Nova Scotia’s sixth rate increase since 2002.
“The momentum behind Nova Scotia’s emerging green energy agenda will be stalled if the province maintains its tendency to weaken environmental initiatives when faced with political pressure over rate increases,” warns Haley.
Haley points to Nova Scotia’s particular brand of energy cost politics as the major stumbling block that forces governments to create a trade-off between energy consumers and a cleaner environment. In contrast, Haley argues that this trade-off is unnecessary; green energy technologies introduce the possibility of ensuring energy affordability by reducing energy waste and turning traditional consumers into revenue-generating renewable energy producers.
Our energy bills are determined by price and how much energy we use; including the energy we waste. Energy bills only become unmanageable when they are too high compared to the income of a household or business. Universally accessible energy efficiency measures as well as more participatory renewable energy generation strategies are the ways to deliver energy affordability in a sustainable future. Haley also argues that a green energy future must provide security against energy poverty, which he says is most effectively achieved by building a social safety net directly into energy bills.
Electricity rates are also an issue for energy-intensive industries in the province. Consider that just two pulp and paper plants consume about 20% of Nova Scotia’s electricity sales. Therefore, the government must develop innovative green industrial strategies that ensure that industries begin to re-tool processes and products now.
Changing the province’s political culture is the most important task, according to Haley. Recognizing that it is very difficult for political leaders to propose environmental policies that result in higher energy prices without offering the public anything in return to ensure social security, Haley calls for a new social bargain that would provide universal access to green energy cost-savings opportunities. In this alternative future, energy cost security will not be provided via lower prices, but by providing universal access to energy efficiency services and renewable energy generation opportunities. This future requires government, citizens and industry to agree to respond to rising energy prices by developing new methods of ensuring energy affordability. This process needs to start now.
The government’s mercury decision is a warning signal that reveals the fragility of the province’s environmental agenda. But this report demonstrates that if Nova Scotia can couple sustainable energy technologies with a new form of energy cost politics, it can realize its vision of sustainable prosperity.
For media inquiries please contact Christine Saulnier, Nova Scotia Director of the CCPA at 240-0926 (cell) or 477-1252