DARRELL DEXTER: Liberal plan to deregulate power system disastrous course9/12/2012
Every time you open your power bill, the price you see reflects the choices of previous governments.
A Conservative government sold Nova Scotia Power, and a Liberal government allowed for the establishment of Emera, its holding company. Liberals put the HST on home electricity, and later voted against the NDP bill that removed it.
A generation ago, Nova Scotia governments chose to build our electricity system based on coal. It seemed to make sense at the time. But the price of coal has increased 75 per cent in the last seven years, and all of us are living with the results.
The status quo is not acceptable. But neither is grasping at seemingly easy fixes that have already been proven to make things worse.
The Liberals are proposing to deregulate the electricity system. And Stephen McNeil has said his scheme to open the market is only a first step.
Whether McNeil himself really understands the implications of this is unclear. But Nova Scotians should be very concerned.
Deregulation has been a disaster everywhere itís been tried.
In Ontario, the Harris-Eves government was forced to back off of its plan to deregulate after power rates rose 30 per cent in seven short months ó in some cases up to 70 per cent.
A scrambling government put taxpayers on the hook for $480 million of a $1.36-billion artificial price cap. Ontario became a net importer of electricity.
Deregulated Alberta, which has the kind of competition McNeil is advocating, has the highest residential rates in Canada. Consumers there have been on a roller-coaster, hit with a 50 per cent spike in rates this past winter alone.
The bailout there cost taxpayers $2.2 billion.
McNeil has yet to give an example of a province or state where deregulation lowered rates. Thatís because he canít.
There is only one way to get off the rates roller-coaster and make sure weíre getting the lowest, fairest prices: Make the shift from imported coal to stable renewable energy from right here in Atlantic Canada. This NDP government has made that a priority from Day 1.
Itís not a quick fix. We still have work to do to achieve the legislated target of 40 per cent. Wind, tidal, biomass and hydroelectricity from Lower Churchill must all be a part of that mix.
On a windy day, Nova Scotia can now reach 30 per cent of its power from renewables. Thatís more than double what it was in 2009.
The first wind farms built in our province now provide power at a stable, competitive rate that is often less than fluctuating fossil fuels.
Renewables are already delivering the lowest, fairest prices and, as their share of generation increases, Nova Scotians will see the benefit on their bill.
Thatís what a real plan looks like. Thatís how we will get control of our energy future.
Darrell Dexter is premier of Nova Scotia.