HALIFAX -- As part of the ongoing dialogue to develop new ways to assist low income Nova Scotians, an agreement was reached today between Nova Scotia Power and some of its regulatory intervenors, including the Affordable Energy Coalition and the Consumer Advocate.
“Today’s agreement proposes meaningful ways to assist low income Nova Scotians who face particular hardship as a result of the increasing costs of living,” said NS Power President and CEO Rob Bennett. “We recognize that during a time when the cost of everything from groceries to school supplies to gas is going up, the cost of electricity is another significant challenge facing these families.”
“Unaffordable energy burdens carry huge social costs in terms of undermining people's health, housing and food security,” said Claire McNeil of the Affordable Energy Coalition. “Many of those living on incomes below the poverty line cannot access power without sacrificing healthy food or other essentials. Solutions to ease energy burdens on poor families are urgently needed and the agreement reached today between consumer advocates and NS Power presents an opportunity to achieve some relief for seniors, and low income families, especially those on social assistance, whose allowance for electricity bills has steadily diminished in real dollar terms since 2001.”
“While our work is far from over, today’s agreement is an important step forward. We thank the Affordable Energy Coalition and Consumer Advocate for their strong advocacy and we look forward to our ongoing work,” Bennett said.
The agreement today paves the way for consultation with NSPI and consumer advocates over the next nine months. Below are the highlights of the provisions formally filed today as part of the ongoing GRA hearing:
- NS Power, the Affordable Energy Coalition and the Consumer Advocate will engage in a consultative process with a view to resolving bill payment, credit and collections matters affecting low income residential consumers. The consultative process may solicit input from other social service agencies, non- governmental organizations involved in low income energy issues.
- The specific items to be discussed by the parties are:
a. Development of a Low-income Customer Charter;
b. Changes to NSPI policy regarding security deposits and repayment agreements;
c. Development of joint recommendations, where appropriate, with respect to regulatory reforms, including with regard to deposits, repayment agreements, interest charges and disconnection procedures;
d. Any other matters as agreed to by the parties.
The proposal includes provision for parties to meet regularly, maintain a timetable and, to the extent that agreement is not reached, provision to request by June 2013, a further appearance and hearing before the NSUARB to resolve outstanding matters
Alongside this agreement, a Low Income Advisory Committee established by NS Power earlier this year will continue with its work focused on low income individuals and the agencies that serve them.