Premier Stephen McNeil said late last week he will order the Utility and Review Board to look into Nova Scotia Power’s performance in responding to power outages following post tropical storm Andrew. As some customers were approaching a week with service down, the premier called the power company’s response “inexcusable.”
It’s hard to see what such a review could accomplish. But considering the frustration experienced by those who went a week and counting with the power down, McNeil would be saying what he believes a lot of people want to hear.
The tough stance is perhaps a continuation of the Liberals’ election promise to break Nova Scotia Power’s monopoly, to open up the market and see that customers have some choice.
Considering the surprising magnitude of damage from Arthur, however, many people are taking it in stride and acknowledging the challenge NSP has had in making the repairs – as has New Brunswick’s utility.
In fact, following McNeil’s call for a review, Nova Scotia Power CEO Bob Hanf said in a statement that he welcomes such an exercise – suggesting the utility is confident it did the best it could in restoring the many outages. Hanf did earlier acknowledge problems with the company’s communication system to give customers updates.
So far we’ve never seen the Utility and Review Board get tough with NSP when it comes to pricing issues, so it’s hard to see what repercussions this review could possibly have. Could the URB order more tree trimming, for example, or tell NSP to have more line workers in its employ? That seems unlikely.
Nova Scotians can’t be certain about this review. McNeil’s call for it might have been just more window dressing, with so many fed up with utter dependence on a monopoly.
Making way for alternative, competitive sources – to any substantial degree – might prove a tall order in the relatively short term. But in the long term it’s the best shot we have at having improved service at competitive rates.