After Fiona: State-sponsored Capitalism on Steroids

At least one Facebook friend has reported that 40% of Nova Scotians lost power hours just before the storm hit on Friday night. By noon on Saturday, more than 400,000 NS Power customers still had no power.  Today, Tuesday at 10 am, more than 139,000 people in NS still have no power. And it is predicted that many of them will not have power till Wednesday evening– or later.  

In our province, and in our Atlantic region, we can’t control storms, their frequency or the damage they cause.  What we know is that due to global warming and climate issues, storms and hurricanes will become more severe, closer together, and more difficult to withstand –especially in the hinterland. Now the storms will play havoc in the urban areas as well.

I’m sure the 1700 employees of NS Power are working full out to reconnect us, and repair electrical lines, but what are their bosses doing—some mansplaining it seems.  With downed power lines everywhere, NS Power’s CEO Peter Gregg talks about small points and personal safety  “You must assume those power lines are energized. Do not go near them. Do not touch them.”  He steers away from the big picture.  Front and centre in the big picture is NS legislation which guarantees NS Power a 9% rate of return on investment.  That means that NS  Power, a corporation, gets its 9% from NS customers whose incomes are being eaten away by inflation.  This fall NS Power has asked the Utilities and Review Board (UARB) to approve an increase of up to 9.5%.    There is also the not so small issue of the company proposing to the UARB a 50-50 split.  That way NS Power would split the profits it earns above the rate of return with ratepayers In the past, the ratepayers received the extra profits

NS Power’s demand for an extra storm levy– each year

NS Power’s  final ask to the UARB is for a storm levy. The company has asked for an extra 2%  every year from customers, to help with NS Power’s expenses incurred because of major storms like Fiona. Every year the levy would bring the power company $10 million — on top of the rates charged to customers. 

In 2021, “Nova Scotia Power made $241million profit, an increase of $20 million from 2020.”

journalist Jennifer Henderson in Halifax Examiner

In Feb. 2022, Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner reported that 2021 delivered record profits to Emera Inc. shareholders. Emera is the parent company of Nova Scotia Power. Henderson wrote,

“Earnings per share were up 11% from $2.68 in 2020 to $2.81 in 2021. Emera earned $723 million in profit; Nova Scotia Power made $241 million profit, an increase of $20 million from 2020.”

in the Halifax Examiner, Feb 2022

According to a June 2022 report in the online business site Huddle, a leaked memo to  the Tory government, suggested that “should NSP’s proposed rate increase go through, the company would increase its profits from $130 million a year in 2020 to $213 million a year by 2024. That’s a 64 percent profit increase over four years.”  What’s more, better  than 50% of the rate increase would go to the company’s profits.

And profits there are…

So where are the profits being spent? Again according to Henderson, Emera is planning to spend $8.4-$9.4 billion over the next three years, 70% of it in Florida.  Emera’s CEO Scott Balfour said “…continuing sales growth there will help subsidize investments in renewable energy projects here to meet government environmental targets by 2030.” That’s just great – or is it?

Well in the past week, the big shots at NS Power were not doing much, except holding out their caps for yet another handout. Indeed a week ago, the irksome news was that NS Power was pleading for a 11.6% rate increase by 2024, up from a 10% ask at the opening day of UARB hearings! 

Fiona: the waves hit Eastern Passage on Sept. 24. (credit The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan)

Not only do people not have power, everyone’s cell phone seems to act erratically at this point.  Depending on the server, phone numbers work, or they don’t.  Messages get through or not. Even the old-fashioned landlines can no longer provide emergency service, we have discovered. 

I know this is all to be expected from corporate Canada – from NS Power, from Bell Aliant and from Eastlink, but what about the governments’ emergency services? Stay tuned for my next blog for that.

Featured image: A Halifax street, after Hurricane Fiona, photographed by Ingrid Bulmer / Reuters

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