News

1. Proposed power rate increases

The Tufts Cove power plant in Dartmouth. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Residential customers could see their power bills increase by 10% over the next three years, if a general rate application submitted by Nova Scotia Power [Thursday] afternoon is approved by the regulator,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The company says that works out to approximately an extra $5 a month but admits the increase could be higher if the Utility and Review Board (UARB) approves other proposals contained in its filing.

If approved by the UARB, businesses would see slightly higher rate increases.

The part of the proposal getting the most attention is this:

Nova Scotia Power is proposing to add an $8 per month “system access charge” for all new customers who want to generate their own electricity and sell the extra back to Nova Scotia Power through a process known as “net-metering.” Customers signed up before February 1 of this year will be exempt from having to pay the proposed fee.

The Halifax Examiner asked NS Power CEO Peter Gregg to explain the rationale for this additional charge.

“We see this as an issue of fairness,” said Gregg. “What we want to avoid is for customers that don’t have access to generate their own electricity to be covering or subsidizing costs for people who do have the ability to generate their own electricity. There is still a cost to serve those customers because they continue to be connected to the grid. Their costs have gone down and we still have cost in the system to provide reliable power and so as they are paying less, it just naturally happens that the rest of the customers’ costs go up.”

Look for that explanation to get much more thorough scrutiny at the upcoming public hearing than we can provide today.

Indeed. Here’s how Joan Baxter reacted to the proposed net metering charge:

The NSP proposal to charge $8 per kW per month to people who are feeding solar power into its grid robbed me of an entire night of sleep, but that is nothing compared with what it is going to do to the flourishing solar industry in this province, which has resulted in a proliferation of small solar businesses and a lot of jobs throughout the province.

Lots of people have been deciding to put up solar panels in NS, mostly wanting to produce green energy and hoping that at least the feed-in tariffs they get will eventually pay for the expensive solar installations, although in my case that could take so many years — I’ll be long dead before it does.

Nova Scotia Power doesn’t contribute a penny to this expensive infrastructure (and charges $25 every two months for the net meter rental).

Two weeks ago, out of the blue, the province (Efficiency One) suddenly reduced the rebate from $6000 to $3000 for a 10 kW solar system. A 10 kW system can produce about $1750 worth of power a year, according to Solar Nova Scotia, and these days it costs about $35,000 to put in a 10 kW system. So not exactly a money-making investment, but something a lot of Nova Scotians have been making, to do their bit for the climate.

They have no choice but to feed it into the NSP power grid, because, well, monopoly. A grid that of course Nova Scotians originally paid for, so that Progressive Conservative Premier Donnie Cameron could sell it off in 1991.

And now, Nova Scotia Power isn’t satisfied taking advantage of this free solar infrastructure that citizens provide, it wants to charge them to make power and provide it to … Nova Scotia Power. So someone who has spent $35,000 to put up a 10 kW system will now be expected to pay Nova Scotia Power to produce power for Nova Scotia Power.

This will be a huge disincentive to anyone thinking of putting up solar panels, and will destroy municipal programs for solar development. It will likely put a stop to projects that may already have been planned, and probably put a lot of small solar businesses out of business, while the UARB decides about this latest NSP money grab, which is one of several it announced yesterday … the same day the company told the CBC’s Paul Withers said it needed to keep the Trenton coal-fired plant open longer because it didn’t have enough alternate energy, no less.

So much for fighting climate change in this province.

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2. Housing

Travelodge Suites in Dartmouth is shown in a Google Streetview image from 2017.

“People could start moving into a ‘trailblazing’ new housing project in a former Dartmouth hotel in mid-March,” reports Zane Woodford:

The municipal, provincial and federal governments held a joint video conference on Thursday to announce the Overlook, a new supportive housing project by the Affordable Housing Association (AHANS) and the North End Community Health Centre (NECHC). The building will have 65 tenants.

As the Halifax Examiner first reported in October 2021, AHANS bought the Travelodge Suites at 101 Yorkshire Ave Ext., off Windmill Road in Dartmouth, using a mix of provincial and federal funding directed through the municipal government targeted toward deeply affordable housing.

Another Rapid Housing Initiative announcement was made this morning. The government announced $7 million  ($6.5 million from the federal government, $500,000 from the provincial government) for two projects — 12 units at Souls Harbour’s women’s shelter on the Eastern Shore and eight units at Akoma Holdings’ property of the former Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children. The Examiner reported in September that council had recommended those projects for funding.

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3. Almon Street bike lane

A map in the staff report shows the planned bike lanes on Almon Street.

“The city’s transportation committee has signed off on a new partially protected bike lane for Almon Street,” reports Zane Woodford:

The bike lane is supposed to be part of the city’s planned all ages and abilities (AAA) bike network under its transportation plan, and would stretch from Windsor Street to Gottingen Street. At a virtual meeting on Thursday, council’s Transportation Standing Committee recommended unanimously in favour of the plan.

From Windsor Street to Agricola Street, the bike lane would be fully protected and separated from traffic, either with a pre-cast concrete curb and bollards, or raised to sidewalk level. That bike lane would look like the one on South Park Street.

But from Agricola to Gottingen, the plan is for a shared lane — just paint denoting the presence of cyclists, like Vernon Street. These are commonly called “sharrows.”

In essence, if approved, the “bike lane” means there’s no bike lane at all between Agricola and Gottingen Streets.

For whatever reason, I end up walking along or across that stretch of Almon Street quite often in my travels. There’s a lot of foot traffic and bike traffic already, and cars muck up what is otherwise becoming a nice little people-oriented neighbourhood. I rail against the new ugly apartment buildings going up along Isleville, but they do bring in a lot of people, and there are interesting businesses popping up (I’ll plug Espresso 46 and the Warehouse Market).

Rather than give up on bikes, we should probably give up on the cars, by either eliminating them completely from Almon Street or making it one-way with lots of obstacles to slow them down. Same with Isleville.

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4. “Yacobo O’Hanley”

Sign near Tatamagouche (Contributed)

Yesterday, we published a piece by Joan Baxter about commenters on a CBC story about the protected status granted to the French River watershed, which was the subject of an earlier article written by Baxter, which in turn reflected her work on mining in the Tatamagouche area, which… well, anyway, I put an admittedly snarky headline on it: “‘Yacobo O’Hanley’ and some other old boys have hurt fee-fees about protecting Tatamagouche’s water supply.” You can read it yourself.

Website comments are a pain in the butt. We moderate each and every comment on the Examiner site because we don’t want to expose ourselves to defamation suits brought upon us because some random irate reader accuses someone of being a pedophile or whatever, and because we don’t want each and every article to end up in a dumpster fire of nonsense. We additionally limit commenting to paying subscribers because while you’re entitled to whatever dumb opinion you have, we’re not going to publish it unless you give us some hard cash — pony up the Violas, and we’ll put up with all sorts of dumb opinions. We additionally ask that commenters use their real names, although some seem to have either ignored that request or subscribed before we made it explicit. So Iris and I (mostly Iris) are popping onto the site all day long to read and approve comments. We trash the comments accusing people of being pedophiles and the comments spreading misinformation about COVID, but most of the comments get through. Because of all this, there aren’t so many dumb comments (except from that one guy), and the comment section on the Examiner is generally more thoughtful and respectful than you’ll find on other sites.

I have no idea how the CBC manages its comment section, but up popped “Yacobo O’Hanley” in their comments, which Baxter tracked down as Jacob Hanley, the chair of Saint Mary University’s Department of Geology; wrote Baxter:

For example this article details how the Mining Association of Nova Scotia (MANS) and its allies mine for public dollars, and how MANS used some of that to beget the Minerals Research Association of Nova Scotia (MRANS).

Hanley is one of the seven people — all men — who make up the MRANS board.

Hanley is also on the Advisory Council of the Mineral Resources Development Fund (MRDF) that hands out $1.5 million a year to mining companies, prospectors, researchers, and industry associations such as MANS.

Hanley has not done badly with MRDF research money for himself and his students. These are the grants he has received in the past four years:

2021:        $110,050

2020:          $27,800

2019:          $32,700

2018:          $47,500

TOTAL:      $218,050

The grants in 2018 and 2019 funded Hanley’s research in the Cobequid Hills, the site of DNR’s Warwick Mountain Project, where Hanley says mineral exploration should be permitted, regardless of whether Tatamagouche sources its water there or not.

An article in the DNR’s Spring 2017 quarterly Geological Record says that Hanley was conducting “deposit research on the some prominent showings” in the “closure area,” the 30,000 hectares that DNR had closed to claims while it prepared to promote the Warwick Mountain Project to several multinational mining companies, which it did after the 2017 PDAC.

So SMU’s Jacob Hanley knows the Warwick Mountain Project well.

But that’s something he and his alter ego Yacobo O’Hanley didn’t get around to mentioning when posting a comment on the CBC story that strongly criticized the province’s decision to protect the French River watershed.

Hanley ponied up a Viola to comment on Baxter’s article this morning (that Viola will pay for one-tenth of this month’s Property Online subscription, thanks), to explain that there’s a perfectly innocent explanation for the pseudonym:

When you log on to CBC via any social media, you use your name from that social media outlet as your login name as an option. I have been doing that for a decade. There is nothing more to it. No “alter ego” no secrecy.

So maybe Yacobo O’Hanley is Hanley’s Tinder handle or some such, I dunno. But as Baxter points out:

…the point of the article (which he seems to miss) – Dr. Hanley didn’t acknowledge who he is or his link to the Warwick Mountain Project.

More interesting to me is the debate between Hanley and reader Charles van Duren about whether grant funding secured by an academic means the academic personally benefits from the grant. It’s undoubtedly true that the budget for a MRDF grant doesn’t include a line item for “Dr. Hanley’s yacht,” but certainly there’s a more nebulous connection between the ability to bring in grants and one’s career success, and that will help frame his perspective, no? As Upton Sinclair famously noted, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Anyway, if you, dear reader, would like to contribute to this conversation with your not-dumb observation, you can drop a Viola here and let ‘er rip, pending moderation. None of the subscription money goes towards my yacht.

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5. Lisa Barrett

Dr. Lisa Barrett. Photo: Canadian HIV Trials Network (CTN)

Yesterday, Yvette d’Entremont interviewed Dalhousie University infectious disease specialist, physician, and researcher Dr. Lisa Barrett “to talk about this current wave, people’s fears, and why she believes there’s light at the end of the tunnel and things will look much better this spring.”

It’s a wide ranging conversation, and an interesting read.

Barrett and most of the other epidemiologists in the news of late are much more optimistic than I am. Hey, they’re the experts, so what do I know?

Speaking of which, the province reported yesterday that another person died from COVID; hers was the 14th death this week. At the height of the first wave, Nova Scotia was experiencing 15 and 16 deaths a week. In the face of the current high death count, we’re somehow supposed to stay optimistic, I guess.

I’ll publish the weekly COVID recap when today’s numbers are released this afternoon.

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Government

City

Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

The Precariousness of Freedom: Slave Resistance as Experience, Process, and Representation (Friday, 3:30pm) — Charmaine Nelson from NSCAD will talk


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
06:00: STI Modest, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from IJmuiden, Netherlands
12:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
17:00: Oceanex Avalon, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for St. John’s
17:30: ZIM Tarragona sails for New York
20:30: MSC Sandra, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Montreal

Cape Breton
13:00: Shelia Ann, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
14:00: Seasprite, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Ras Lanuf, Libya


Footnotes

I don’t typically look at the list of subscribers. I figure people have their own reasons for subscribing or not, and I don’t want that information to interfere with my relationships with other people, or even our interactions.

Iris does most of the day-to-day problem solving, resetting of passwords, culling of dead accounts, and so forth, so she’s into the list all the time. On those rare occasions when she’s away, I can do such chores myself, and that involves getting into the list, so I don’t ignore it completely. I also check to make sure we haven’t lost a ton of subscribers because I made a dumb joke or whatever.

But don’t worry, I’m not judging you by your subscription status. Still, it’s only a Viola.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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13 Comments

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  1. I’m so glad I’m a subscriber. I got a better understanding of: what NS Power wants to do, how you have to deal with inappropriate comments, the conflict of interest in that SMU geologist’s comments on Tatamagouche water shed, and the good news of the bikelane proposal for Almon St. Though I’m riled up about most of this, I’m better off knowing. Thank you so much for your excellent works!

  2. Gonna make sure I get my money’s worth by commenting…

    I noticed a small error in the NS Power part, but it might also be an error in the material being quoted — it says ‘Nova Scotia Power is proposing to add an $8 per month “system access charge”’, but they’re proposing an $8 _per kW_ per month charge.

  3. Only popping in to say this is the only comment section I ever look at and appreciate your and Iris’ efforts to keep readable.

  4. The solar surcharge idea is absolute boneheaded. A’int no one getting rich off of putting solar on their roof. And yes, solar panel owners do cause a cost to the grid but, as the saying goes, “we live in a society”. If we’re really worried unequal cost burdens on the grid we should probably put a surcharge on every rural property in the province. (To be clear, I think that’s a terrible idea – we live in a society, and rural homeowners should not be treated differently than anyone else when it comes to power, even if it costs the rest of us.)

    However, the cynical part of me is pretty sure the solar surcharge proposal is the sacrificial lamb / smokescreen for the rest of NSP’s proposal. The URAB will strike down the solar surcharge proposal, but the 10% general rate raise and maybe the storm surcharge will go through.

    1. Then there’s the Province (Efficiency One) quietly HALVING the grant to encourage folks to go solar!

      We’re about to spend a fortune on a solar panel array, in part to do our bit for cutting GHG and in part to hopefully minimize the our exposure to the cost of the most expensive electricity in the country. I sure hope we’re locked into the $6000 rebate…

      If not, I’m beginning to wonder if we wouldn’t be better off canning the whole deal before it gets built, just cut down trees and burn them instead.

      Just feels like we’re being screwed – again.

      1. The issue with the home solar arrays is these users still require the grid, in fact use they use the grid as storage without paying any fees for it. I don’t understand the rational of $8 Kwh monthly, however if everyone had a solar array on their house, who would pay for the power on a cloudy day or at night? This is the same dilemma that is on the horizon for electric cars. When 2% of cars sold and less than .1% of vehicles on the road are electric, the impact is minimal. However, if everyone is driving an electric car who pays the $500 million being spent this year on our highways in Nova Scotia? Unfortunately gas taxes don’t even cover the full fare today and that will only become worse as electric vehicle sales climb.

        Many of us are fortunate to spend $20,000+ on solar arrays and feel that we are helping the environment. These users also feel they are doing the heavy lifting by making electricity on a sunny day which they paid mostly for out of their pocket. I am not professing that solar generators should give this power to NSP, but maybe there is a reasonable middle ground. I don’t know the math but I have read that generating power from coal is between 4 and 8 cents per Kwh, therefore the remaining 8+ cents pays for the infrastructure, people and shareholders.

        Maybe there is a rate that users sell power to the grid and a rate that users purchase from the utility. This could also encourage users to use power when they are generating it, kind of like the time of day rates work for those who subscribe to that model.

  5. Curse Donald Cameron and the horrible privatization binge of the 90s.

    Unfortunately the various bureaucracies are so inured to the concept that government is ALWAYS. worse than the private sector that there is much we will never get back.

    The filthy rich potentates will never give up their gold plated benefits and guaranteed profits without a costly battle.

    They have built a cash cow for their own enrichment on the backs of ratepayers feeding us corporate doublespeak and outright bullshit in return.

    It’s long past time for the grifters at Nova Scotia Power to be ousted.

  6. The returns on renewable energy are terrible compared to hoarding property. If we all hoard property, we’ll all be rich, then we can sell some of it to buy solar panels and whatnot for the rest.

  7. Another great read, guys. How you deal with comments, even from registered ones, when they go off on tangents like some do, I do not know. Well done to you and Iris! It is small wonder that the CBC limits commenting to certain stories, and disallows them completely on FB, given the dreck I do see on the stories open to comments, sometimes. You are all doing important work here and while I don’t read everything, I learn daily, and sometimes I don’t even despair at humanity. Thanks!