N.S. Power customers in Cumberland frustrated after bills rise without explanation

·3 min read
Some Nova Scotia Power customers in Cumberland County say they haven't been given a good explanation of why their bills have risen. (Paul Poirier/CBC - image credit)
Some Nova Scotia Power customers in Cumberland County say they haven't been given a good explanation of why their bills have risen. (Paul Poirier/CBC - image credit)

Some people in Nova Scotia's Cumberland County say their recent power bills have been abnormally high, even doubling since their last bill — but they haven't been able to get much of an explanation of why.

Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said in the last month she's received more complaints about power bills than she ever has in the past.

"The general theme was that their power bills were significantly higher, with no significant change in usage. One customer said their bill had doubled," said Smith-McCrossin.

Diane Goodwin, who lives in the Lorneville area of Cumberland County, is one of those customers. She said after calling Nova Scotia Power and getting a rather vague response, she rallied together some friends and neighbours in the area.

She said she spoke with nearly a dozen people who told her that when they called Nova Scotia Power customer service about their high bills, they were told the "cold winter" was to blame because more electricity was needed to heat their homes.

Higher bill not due to heat

But Goodwin said there's one problem with that answer in her case: she primarily heats her home with wood, not electricity.

She said despite limiting the use of her hot-water heater and making no other changes to power usage in her household, she's seen her bill jump from around $260 to more than $500.

"We know it's cold, but I'm not calling because it was a cold winter. I'm calling because my power bill was double," said Goodwin, recounting a frustrating experience she had with one of the agents who took her call at Nova Scotia Power.

Shelly Casey owns three properties in Cumberland County: a business called SeaShell BeachWear & Gifts and two nearby residential homes.

She said she usually pays around $550 in power at her store location, but there was something off about her last two bills.

"January was $938 and April was $750," said Casey.

Casey said the other properties she owns also experienced an increase. "In September-November, it was $370 and then November-January $842."

N.S. Power aware of concerns

Smith-McCrossin said her office reached out to Nova Scotia Power when the complaints started rolling in, but they haven't stopped and she wants the company to look into it further.

"We have reached out to Nova Scotia Power to ask them to look into it and to investigate to make sure that the smart meters are accurate for people," said Smith-McCrossin.

Jaqueline Foster, a communications advisor for Nova Scotia Power, said the company is aware of concerns that have been raised in Cumberland County.

"[We are] working with those customers who have reached out to us directly," Foster said.

Smith-McCrossin said she expects this issue to be taken seriously and that Nova Scotia Power has a responsibility to its customers when it comes to providing them with accurate power metering and billing information.

Paul Allen, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, said if the issues in Cumberland County are not resolved, he recommends customers reach out to the company's NS Power Dispute Resolution Officer, an internal process that deals with complaints.

Once the officer has rendered their written decision, the customer then has 12 days from the date of notification of the decision to appeal to the regulator. Nova Scotia Power, however, cannot appeal the decision.

Casey said she doesn't understand why some people in the area are experiencing such large jumps in cost while others aren't, and hopes to see the issue resolved as soon as possible.

"We just need help. Because, nope, I can't afford this. This is ridiculous."

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