Global News: Nearly half of people in N.S. face energy poverty, group says. They want a 50% discount

Posted June 7, 2024

Lisa Hayhurst’s apartment in north Dartmouth was built in the ’80s and has a few structural issues, including drafty windows that let out heat in the winter.

The deficiencies are evident in her power bills.

“The energy bills, it’s crazy expensive. It can be up to $400 in the wintertime and then it’s a little cheaper in the summertime. It can be up to about two to three hundred,” she said.

Hayhurst is the chapter chair of Acorn Dartmouth, an independent group representing low- and moderate-income people. She relies on social assistance, which comes out to about $900 a month. However, almost $800 of that goes towards rent, leaving a little over $100 for utilities, food and other necessities.

“It’s very challenging, I have to cut back on a lot of things I want to do,” she said.

On Tuesday, the Energy Poverty Task Force released its Energy Affordability Program Report, entitled A Way Forward. It states that energy poverty affects 43 per cent of households in Nova Scotia.

The report lays out shortcomings in existing programs and presents a four-pronged strategy to lower the poverty rate.

“The heart of the proposal lies with a proposed 50 per cent discount on home energy rates, and it is intended to address bills on a ‘going-forward’ basis,” said Roger Colton, the report’s author.

Colton recommends the discount be applied to home energy bills on top of funding a more realistic arrears forgiveness system, implementing a crisis intervention fund and increasing home energy efficiency.

But this proposed program will require buy-in from Nova Scotia Power.

“One reason that Nova Scotia Power would do that is it’s quite easier to agree to provide a discount to folks who aren’t paying their bills,” Colton said.

He said if the utility company decides to play ball, changes could come as soon as next fiscal year.

Chris Lanteigne, the customer care director for Nova Scotia Power, said the company will take part in discussing the idea.

“We feel that the report establishes a great foundation for further conversations and Nova Scotia Power would look forward to being at the table for that,” Lanteigne said.

That response is welcomed by Colton.

“The important thing about Nova Scotia Power is they didn’t say no.”

Article by Ella MacDonald for Global News