Nova Scotia Power and NB Power announce new system to buy cheaper energy

HALIFAX – NB Power and Nova Scotia Power say they’re teaming up for a pilot project they say could save the utilities up to $20 million in fuel costs and may help reduce rate increases for customers.

The Crown-owned New Brunswick utility and Nova Scotia Power (TSX:EMA) say a new dispatch system will allow them to purchase electricity from each other at cheaper rates on a daily basis.

Keith Cronkhite, the vice-president of business development at NB Power, said Friday key savings will occur as the two utility companies buy power generated at plants burning coal, oil or natural gas. He said the system will allow either utility to buy energy based on which plants are able to get the best price for the fuels.

“I think this is a really good step around regional co-operation,” he said.

A spokeswoman with Nova Scotia Power (TSX:EMA) said the two companies already have an agreement that allows either one to purchase and transmit power across provincial borders when electricity is needed for backup purposes.

“It’s about using the most economic form of energy,” said Beverley Ware. “We’re looking at New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as a single region.”

Ware said it is uncertain whether the change will lead to a rate decrease but it will assist in keeping fuel costs down and that may help avoid price increases for consumers in the future.

Both Ware and Cronkhite said Nova Scotia Power and NB Power will maintain their separate dispatch centres and no job losses are expected.

The companies say they started testing the new system in January and plan to run it for a year.

Cronkhite said he doesn’t expect nuclear power from the Point Lepreau plant in New Brunswick, wind, solar or other renewable energy to be exchanged under the system and it won’t have a significant impact on each province’s carbon emissions. But a limited amount of hydroelectricity will flow between the two provinces, most likely during the spring runoff, he added.