- Six municipal utilities own and operate their own transmission and distribution systems – small electric grids – in Antigonish, Berwick, Canso, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay and Riverport. These utilities buy electricity from NS Power and other sources, generate some of their own, and sell directly to their customers.
- Independent Power Producers (IPPs) supply a large amount of the province’s renewable energy, such as wind and biomass, to NS Power. Over 70% of the large-scale wind turbines generating electricity in Nova Scotia are independently owned.
- Enhanced Net Metering enables many homes and businesses to generate their own renewable electricity, sell NS Power any excess power they produce, and draw from the grid when needed.
- New government policy set in 2011 established Community Feed-In Tariffs (COMFITs) that enable community-based organizations to develop renewable energy generation and sell their electricity to NS Power.
Yet, NS Power still provides 95 per cent of the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity across Nova Scotia.
Monopolies aren’t always preferred.
Competition among manufacturers and service providers is often seen to benefit customers because, in order to succeed, businesses must provide superior products, services, and prices to attract and retain customers. Yet, there are industries where regulated monopolies are seen to provide the most benefit to customers. Electric utilities provide a service that requires a tremendous amount of capital infrastructure that would be inefficient to duplicate in a competitive environment, especially in small markets like Nova Scotia and other Atlantic Provinces. It would be difficult for a company to build and operate power plants, lines and other infrastructure and keep rates low without a significant customer base to ensure they can stay in business.
Put another way, regulated electric utilities work on economies of scale – the principle that one larger provider is able to provide cheaper, more efficient service than two or more smaller companies. For example, the Digby Neck and Nuttby Mountain Wind Farms owned by NS Power began generating electricity for roughly $83 per megawatt hour (MWh), while electricity from wind farms built around the same time but owned by independent power producers generally costs between $90 and $100 per MWh.