The Nova Scotia Solar Industry – No one should have a Monopoly on the Sun’s Power

What had started as a campaign by Nova Scotia Power and their President and CEO Peter Gregg to put one customer against the other has backfired and created a strong movement of Bluenosers calling for more accountability and transparency from NSP and its parent company Emera.  Many Nova Scotian’s are asking for the government to even considered taking back reins and control of the utility stating that no private for profit company should have a monopoly on the province’s energy, and use its power to bully customers, especially ones that harvested energy from the wind and the sun and feed the grid at the customer’s own expense.


Premier Tim Houston pledged to get Nova Scotia to 80 percent renewable energy by 2030, but most questioned if this would or could be done in a province that relies so heavily on coal for its electricity needs.  Well, this pledge met it’s first hurtle since the Progressive Conservative government took power and Premier Tim Houston handed his government’s mandate outlining the focus for the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Tim Halman on September 14, 2021 which included a commitment to 80 percent of the electricity needs of the province being supplied by renewable energy by 2030.

Given such an aggressive mandate by the government and a call to actively encourage innovative, green and sustainability focused businesses in the province and those looking to come to Nova Scotia to help provide Sustainable Renewable Energy products and services for all Bluenosers it should not have been a surprise when the government of Nova Scotia jumped in when the head of Nova Scotia’s electrical utility announced a “System Access Charge” for customers using solar power and feeding the provincial power grid.

Not only did Peter Gregg, President and CEO of Nova Scotia Power announce the upcoming change to net metering customers, but he also started defending the proposal to charge fees back to customers who sell renewable power back to the grid, going on a campaign to pit Nova Scotia Power customers against one another by saying that homeowners who generate their own electricity using solar panels are currently being subsidized by other customers and for this they should pay a monthly fee to sell their excess power back to the system to ensure fairness for all customers.

For those of our readers that are not familiar with solar or net metering contracts, we thought we would make this simple.  Have you ever made pizza night at your house and invite friends over to share a slice or two?  Sure, you have, we all have, right?  You go to the store you pick up the ingredients, you get the dough ready, chop up the toppings and heat up the oven.  Put the pizza in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes and then it is time to eat.  Imagine right after you finished the dishes you get a call from one of the large pizza chains wanting $10 because you didn’t order the pizza from them but made it on your own and shared it with others using your own money.  Well, that is the fee that Nova Scotia Power, a subsidiary of Emera Inc., was applying for to the provincial regulator.  They are looking to charge solar customers about $8 per kilowatt of electricity.  This proposed system access charge for net metering customers of NSP would have cost them roughly $960 a year for a typical 10-kilowatt photovoltaic solar installation, which generates about $1,800 in annual revenue for the utility, thus doubling the time needed to earn back the cost of installing the system with current rebates.

According to Keith Bilyk of Solar Choice Maritimes, “it was never really confirmed if the fee would be based on what the system could produce or what the system actually produced, as we know that there can be a huge difference when you factor in Maritime weather, like cloudy skies and snow on your panels in the winter months.”

Solar Nova Scotia, which is an advocacy group for Businesses and customers using solar product and services criticized this plan and accused the private company of using its monopoly on electricity distribution to oust competition from small-scale renewable systems.

However, Gregg was holding to his guns that the proposed new system access charge would contribute to a strong and fair “net metering program” and was a critical part of getting Nova Scotia off coal by 2030.

Gregg went on to say, “These are customers who generate their own electricity at their home or business and use (Nova Scotia Power’s) power lines and infrastructure to put their excess energy on the grid or use power from the grid when they don’t produce enough.”  So, they use power like everyone else on the grid does, the only difference is when they are not using it NSP is selling their solar generated power to non solar users.  As for cost, the solar customer has to pay out of pocket for special metering, not NSP, plus they do not get any carry over benefits from month to month.  So, if they sell more power to NSP than they use, they do not get compensated for added power they have given to other customers on the grid, so I guess that is what they call fair. But I guess Gregg and the board at NSP are just looking out for the shareholders and of course themselves as Gregg’s compensation is $2.4 million before bonuses and Scott Balfour, CEO of Emera, yearly compensation is nearly $8 million.  I guess they are looking for more to make ends meet by charging people who are struggling to survive the financial effects of more than two years of being in a pandemic with an extra 10 percent for their electricity, because that sounds fair.

Plus, in wanting to be fair to customers, NSP gave those in the solar industry less than a weeks notice of the pending “System Access Charge” with most only finding out that NSP looking for this additional fee as part of the power utility asking for an average general rate increase for residential customers of 9.9 percent over three years, with possible additional allowances for costs due to severe weather and energy efficiency costs. 

Nova Scotia Power didn’t stop at increases for residential customers, they are also asking for increases for large industrial customers, which would be slightly over 10 percent plus increases for small and medium business increases go up between 11 and just over 12 per cent over the same three-year time period.

The application submitted to the province’s Utility and Review Board also includes a request that the board create a mechanism to spread out the $370 million costs of the province’s phasing out of coal-fired generation by 2030, which is about the same as the net YOY net profit increase for Emera.

Let’s be honest, NSP nor its parent company Emera Inc, care about a fair solution for their customers, they are looking for ways to build on their energy monopoly and continue to hold Nova Scotian businesses and customer prisoners to power utility.

Well, the power customers of Nova Scotia, along with the members of the solar industry and their supporting advocacy groups have spoken and have put NSP on notice that they will not be bullied, strong armed or forced to pay more as NSP continues to put maximizing profit ahead of the people of Nova Scotia.  What had started as a campaign by NSP to put one customer against the other has now built into a strong movement that is calling for more accountability for Emera and for the Government to take the reins back on the essential utility because no one private company should have monopoly on energy especially energy that is created from the wind and the sun.

In response to mounting concerns from those in the solar industry and their customers Premier Tim Houston stepped in with a public letter, and also took to social media saying, “We’re working now to introduce the necessary legislative and regulatory framework to deny the net metering system access charge requested by NS Power.” What followed was a statement from NSP President and CEO, Peter Gregg saying that the utility would withdraw their application for the new system access fee for one year.  However, most Nova Scotians are calling for it to be withdraw permanently along with other proposed increase to customer residential and commercial as the province and the economy continues to recover from the effect the pandemic.

Time will only tell how this will all work out as we feel that the solar industry might have won this battle for the time being, but you can be assured that Gregg and his team at NSP are preparing to up their efforts to provide more profits for their shareholders, after all their bonuses are based on it.


by Ryan Myson