Haligonians may soon get the opportunity to reduce their electricity bills and help the province meet its climate commitments.
On March 11, Efficiency Nova Scotia (through its non-profit administrator EfficiencyOne), submitted a three-year energy reduction plan to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) that could help lower electricity bills in the province by more than $540 million.
Called the Demand Side Management Plan, the proposed blueprint would also aim to target the province’s net-zero commitments under the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act.
“We’ve had really productive conversations with tons of stakeholders throughout this process,” says Janet Tobin, communication lead for Efficiency Nova Scotia, who shaped the plan after conducting a province-wide survey in November.
“We heard from about 1,400 Nova Scotians then and about 60 businesses, (and) I think there’s a lot of aligned direction on the plan — everyone recognizes how important climate change is and how we need to do as much as we can to combat that.”
Efficiency Nova Scotia estimates the Demand Side Management Plan could increase electricity bills by approximately $2 a month, starting in 2023.
On the other hand, that expense will be offset with customers saving an average of $5 a month through energy efficiency.
“We have the evidence to support that and we have got 10 years — a decade of savings — to demonstrate that these programs work and these savings are real,” adds Tobin. "So far, over the past 10 years, Nova Scotians have saved over $1.4 billion in energy savings and this plan is estimated to save another $540 million dollars over its three year period."
It won’t just be homeowners benefiting from the Demand Side Management Plan either.
Efficiency Nova Scotia says the plan will enable them to deliver more programs to more Nova Scotians, including $35 million to help low-income homeowners and those who rent, $20 million to assist small businesses recovering after the pandemic, and an additional $7 million to address the needs of Mi’kmaw communities by lowering electricity costs and boosting job creation with community preferred contractors.
“We’ve been doing work with Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw communities for the past few years,” notes Tobin, adding Efficiency Nova Scotia has supported the Mi’kmaw Home Energy Efficiency Project (MHEEP). “We’ve developed a unique program that’s specific to the 13 communities that offers free home upgrades, (and) this additional funding allows us to really expand that program, do more and meet the needs.”
The Demand Side Management Plan estimates energy efficiency investments will increase up to $57 million a year from its current level of around $40 million. The non-profit organization expects the higher investment will be more than offset by the savings ratepayers will receive, helping to offset other rate pressures through overall reduction on energy use.
“It’s a combination of rebates and incentives,” says Tobin about how the programs work. She adds the benefit will depend on what programs people undertake. For example, she notes the $35 million dedicated to low-income homeowners and renters will include such benefits as free product installations, such as smart thermostats.
“For some of our free home upgrade programs, we go in and do insulation and draft proofing, and in some programs we have rebates on heat pumps,” adds Tobin. “So it really depends on who the customer is, but for the most part, it’s providing either free opportunities on products, in-store savings on products (since) we want them to be looking and buying the most energy efficient products they can.”
Tobin says Efficiency Nova Scotia hopes the UARB makes its decision on the proposal by August, with the plan aiming to take effect on January 1, 2023.
In addition to cost savings and more efficient energy use, the plan aims to support 5,300 jobs across the province and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 2 million tonnes.
“It’s a rare opportunity to actually like what you’re doing for your job and then also to get to see the impact it has on Nova Scotians,” says Tobin. “To go to work everyday and actually know that what we are doing is meaningful — not just for individuals, but for the environment and for the way we’re going to leave the world for our children — it’s really, really important and really rewarding to be able to do that everyday.”