Premier Dexter's remarks to The Maritimes Energy Association - Jan. 18, 20131/21/2013
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining me here today as I share with you this government’s plan to ensure Nova Scotians have the lowest and fairest, tax-free electricity rates possible now and in the future.
In April 1977, residential power rates increased in Nova Scotia by 47.2%.
The Liberal premier of the day said…at least it was a lot less than the Power Corporation had requested.
The answer at that time to a 47% increase in power rates…..construct
coal-fired generation plants.
And that is what they did.
And to be frank,… until 2010, there was very little change in the way governments of the day dealt with Nova Scotia’s energy situation.
And because of that in action…..
prices still increased year after year,
the power utility had to start importing coal after the mines in Cape Breton closed,
Nova Scotia families continued to face double-digit rate increases. They barely escaped a double-digit rate increase in 2006 when energy increased 9.9 per cent.
Yet even as the costs of imported coal were rising, previous governments failed to make changes that would secure the energy supply, clean up the environment, and protect ratepayers from the volatility of imported fossil fuels.
And unfortunately, even after watching the price of electricity increase each year, opposition leaders are still claiming the old ways “work best”.
Let’s look at the Liberals….
They would deregulate electricity leaving ratepayers to pay 30-50% higher electricity bills.
They would cancel efficiency programs that help lower electric bills…and they would put the HST back on electricity.
The Conservatives want to keep burning more fossil fuels, even though it means rate payers will be stuck paying millions for new generating stations to meet the new federal environmental regulations.
None of those options are fair to families, who are already working hard to make ends meet without the added burden of higher, unstable power bills.
For too long, Nova Scotia families have been left vulnerable to the unstable and volatile costs of coal and other fossil fuels.
That has to stop. It is not fair to hard-working Nova Scotians. And it is not fair to the next generation of Nova Scotians.
It is my hope that 40 years from now when the Premier of Nova Scotia is at a breakfast like this one, he or she is not delivering the same speech that I am today…
It is my hope that he or she will be telling the story of how Nova Scotia decided once and for all that they were not going to be at the mercy of international fossil fuel prices…that they were going to create an energy supply that was clean, renewable and provided the lowest, fairest rates.
There is no denying that transforming Nova Scotia’s energy future… ensuring the lowest, fairest tax free electricity rates in the long term and fixing the problems of the past …is a huge undertaking.
Nova Scotia faces certain challenges…
One of the most critical challenges that Nova Scotia must deal with is the federal government’s regulations that require us to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
They established regulations that mean we must reduce these harmful emissions from coal fired electricity generation plants by more than half.
That means the province must significantly reduce the amount of coal used.
And we are doing that….we are making progress.
Nova Scotia has a lot to be proud of.
One of the iniatives I am most proud of… that has helped Nova Scotia families keep more money in their pockets is….removing the provincial portion of the HST off basic home electricity.
Making electricity tax-free in this province was a commitment I made to Nova Scotians when I got elected.
Since 2010, Nova Scotians are saving millions of dollars on electricity costs because provincial tax was removed from a basic necessity of life.
But Nova Scotia’s energy plan is about more that making electricity tax-free.
Government asked David Wheeler, the new incoming President of Cape Breton University who is here with us today, to oversee the most comprehensive consultation on energy issues in the province’s history.
Mr. Wheeler heard directly from Nova Scotians who said….it’s time to modernize the province’s electricity system, it’s time to start producing cleaner, renewable electricity and its time to end double digit rate increase for electricity.
Out of those discussions with families and businesses across Nova Scotia, came an energy plan for the future. …
A plan that is that would use local resources, provide reliable, green, tax-free energy, and support energy conservation and efficiency.
If you can remember anything from my speech today, I ask that remember theses 5 words…
• Tax-Free, and
Those words sum up Nova Scotia’s plan to ensure the lowest, fairest tax -free electricity rates in the long term for Nova Scotians.
They sum up government’s commitment to end double digit electricity rate increases and … and they sum up what government will do to transform Nova Scotia’s energy future for the next generation of Nova Scotians.
Nova Scotians know moving toward cleaner, renewable energy sources will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help Canada and the world meet its climate change goals, but most importantly, we know it is the right thing to do for Nova Scotians now and in the future.
The province is already a leader in greenhouse gas reduction targets.
I made a promise to Nova Scotians in the 2009 election, that by 2015, 20% of all electricity in the province will come from renewable sources. I am proud to say Nova Scotia is on track to meet and exceed that target.
The province also established a program that supports community groups, municipalities and First Nations to help develop small energy projects in their own communities.
These are important projects but Nova Scotians had asked for something innovative, something big…something that would bring them low, fair, tax-free rates.
That idea came from a discussion with Premier Danny Williams who presented a potential solution to our challenge – the Lower Churchill and the Maritime Link.
When the agreement was announced I referred to the project as a game changer, a nation building project. I believed at the time… and still do to this day… that this was the best option to meet our challenge – to get us off coal and provide the lowest, fairest, tax-free rates possible.
Last fall, the province hired John Dalton, an expert in electricity and energy markets to study the deal and other potential options.
His task was to compare the options and tell us which was the best option and the lowest cost option for Nova Scotians.
Mr. Dalton has an energy model, which allows him to look at the options, hour by hour, over the next 35 years and compare their costs.
One option is to increase our wind generation backed up by natural gas.
The other option was to bring electricity from Hydro Quebec through New Brunswick.
Yesterday Mr. Dalton delivered his report.
His conclusion – the Maritime Link is the lowest cost option for Nova Scotians.
$400 hundred million lower than the Quebec Hydro option.
$1.5 billion lower than the natural gas and wind option.
The report concluded that the Maritime Link is the best way to bring the lowest, fairest, tax-free rates to families.
It improves reliability because it gives us another link to the North American grid.
Nova Scotia will be in a loop not at the end of the line.
The Maritime Link improves the province’s competitive position because in the future Nova Scotians will be able to choose between electricity from New Brunswick or from Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Maritime Link will add stability to our electricity prices.
8% of Nova Scotians’ electricity cost will remain virtually constant for 35 years.
And if anyone thinks the clean, green energy means higher rates, the province asked John Dalton to also test the effect of Nova Scotia's renewable energy requirement.
He found that even without a renewable requirement, the Maritime Link's clean energy will cost $1 billion less than the approach based on natural gas, and $400 million less than Quebec power.
Mr. Dalton’s additional analysis is further proof that the Lower Churchill/Maritime Link project is the right one for Nova Scotia.
The days of double-digit power rates increases for families, seniors and business owners are over.
The next step for the Maritime Link will be a careful review by the Utility and Review Board.
Mr. Dalton’s report will be submitted as evidence and Mr. Dalton will be called upon to explain and answer questions of its findings.
The Liberals continue to show their inexperience on this issue and have recommended Power Purchase Agreements with Quebec Hydro.
This option means ratepayers in Nova Scotia will pay $400 hundred million more.
Ask yourself what would happen if the province’s one link to the grid with New Brunswick was cut off.
What would happen if Quebec had another ice storm which cut off our power for weeks?
Some critics have said we should put all our eggs in the natural gas basket. In recent months the natural gas price has been lower than it has been in a long time.
That was not the experience for Nova Scotia gas users in December. But Mr. Dalton did not use the recent NS price he used the latest forecast of the IEA, a US Government forecast.
Mr. Dalton did a sensitivity analysis. Which would be the lowest cost option if natural gas prices were 25% lower than the base model?
The Maritime Link remains the lowest, fairest, tax-free option.
Forty years ago we moved from one fossil fuel to another, from oil to coal. Let’s not make the same mistake again.
Critics say that too much emphasis has been put on renewables and not enough on natural gas. Yet since coming to office in 2009 natural gas use in the province has increased faster than the use of renewables.
Nova Scotia families are rightfully concerned about the cost of energy and electricity – and the Maritime Link is only one part of the province’s plan.
The province also established Efficiency Nova Scotia at the recommendation of electricity users representing low income, small and medium size business and large industrials.
These efficiency and conservation programs are working.
Families and seniors who have used these programs are paying less to heat their homes.
The province has invested in wind energy which will provide families with a reliable, renewable power source at a price that will be same 20 years from now.
Tidal energy has received millions of dollars in federal and private investment and has positioned Nova Scotia to lay cable and be a world leader in 2013.
Nova Scotia’s offshore presents another game changing opportunity for business, workers and families. Both Shell Canada and BP Exploration Company will invest over $1 billion each to explore parcels of our offshore.
These represent the largest bids in Atlantic Canadian history and speak volumes about the confidence this industry has in Nova Scotia’s potential.
I would like to mention that representatives from Shell Canada -- Lynn Calder and Larry Lalonde -- are here with us this morning.
This investment will bring more good jobs to Nova Scotia workers and will help the province make the turn towards a more prosperous future.
Through bio-energy, bio-fuel and biomass projects Nova Scotians have also shown their commitment to innovation and have taken the recent challenges in the forestry sector and built forests for the future.
Nova Scotia’s energy plan will deliver the lowest, fairest rates to Nova Scotians.
Our approach covers many areas, from tax rebates to energy efficiency to building a cleaner energy supply and wisely developing the offshore.
These are long term solutions—for a problem that governments have ignored for too long.
Nova Scotia's energy plans dovetail with the Canadian energy strategy discussion led by Premiers Dunderdale and Redford, which includes the work underway to pursue a pipeline bringing western oil to Saint John.
This government has a plan to make sure electricity rates for Nova Scotia families are the lowest and fairest rates possible now and for years to come.
It involves those 5 words I talked about earlier….
• Tax-free, and