New report outlines proposed solution to Nova Scotia’s energy poverty crisis

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Kjipuktuk/Halifax - A new report by utility affordability expert Roger Colton proposes a tailor-made program to slash energy poverty rates in Nova Scotia. A Way Forward: A Made-in-Nova Scotia Home Energy Affordability Program, commissioned by the Nova Scotia Energy Poverty Task Force (NSEPTF), responds to the fact that forty-three per cent of Nova Scotians are struggling to pay their energy bills, the highest proportion in Canada.  

“In 40 years of experience in over 40 jurisdictions across North America, I’ve never seen an energy affordability situation as bad as Nova Scotia is in right now,” says Colton. “Consistently low incomes and volatile spikes in home heating fuels have laid the groundwork for this crisis, but thankfully there’s a way out.” 

The report recommends a four-part solution to apply a discount to home energy bills, fund a more realistic payment and forgiveness system for those in debt from energy bills, expand funding for when households face unexpected emergencies and increase home energy efficiency upgrades for low- and moderate-income households. 

“Programs like this have been adopted in over 30 other states and provinces, including in Ontario with the Ontario Energy Assistance Program,” says Brian Gifford, chair of the Energy Poverty Task Force and of the Affordable Energy Coalition. “If this provincial government is serious about addressing affordability and helping Nova Scotians with the cost of living, implementing these recommendations is just common-sense.” 

Low- and moderate-income households, rural households, and households heated with oil are particularly vulnerable to energy poverty – when people are paying over six per cent of their after-tax income on heating and electricity. 

In a recent survey by Nova Scotia Power, nearly three in four homes in energy poverty delayed paying for necessities like groceries or medication to pay for power at home.  

“These are impossible decisions that nobody should have to make,” says Gifford. “Everyone should be able to access energy without having to go without other basic needs. The recommendations in this report show us a way to get there.”  

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Media Contact

Brian Gifford 
Energy Poverty Task Force, Chair 

Roger Colton 
Fisher, Sheehan & Colton 

Roger Colton is an attorney and economist with the consulting firm Fisher, Sheehan & Colton based in Belmont, Mass. and is a leading expert in rate design programs for poverty alleviation. Colton has specialized in regulatory economics, affordable housing and energy poverty for 40 years and testified in over 30 federal and state courts in the U.S. and Canada. 

The NSEPTF formed in 2023 with the mandate of examining more systematic solutions to Nova Scotia’s energy poverty crisis, largely in response to growing public duress, the especially high fuel prices of 2022, and cuts to Heating Assistance Rebate Program payments. The NSPTF is made up of the Ecology Action Centre, Nova Scotia Power, Efficiency Nova Scotia, the Town of Bridgewater, Clean Foundation, Affordable Energy Coalition, Consumer Advocate, Kate Ervine (SMU), Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, Department of Community Services, Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Nova Scotia Oil Heat Association and The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. 

Read the summary of the report here and an infographic of its key findings here. The full report can be found here.

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