NSP gets out of equipment business

ST. MARY’S – In a surprise move last week, Nova Scotia Power (NSP) terminated its popular on-bill financing program for all heating equipment available to its residential and commercial customers across the province.

According to an email from NSP spokesperson Jacqueline Foster, the move — effective on Nov. 10 — affects “energy efficient products [such as] heat pumps, water heaters and electric thermal energy storage units.”

Foster explained that the utility had no choice “in light of provincial legislation recently passed (Bill 228 which amends the Public Utilities Act). Nova Scotia Power will no longer be able to enter financing arrangements with customers … The provision that [had] authorized us to do so has been removed from the legislation.”

She added: “With the provincial government passing this legislation, November 10, 2022, will be the last day we can accept on-bill financing applications. Applications submitted on or before November 10, 2022, will still be processed. That means those customers will still have the ability to do on-bill financing through their Nova Scotia Power bill if they choose to. If a customer has an assessment or installation booked and has made an application on or before November 10, 2022, the customer would also still be eligible.”

According to Canada Energy Regulator, the demand for heat pumps – which extract heat from the air and release it inside for heating or outside for cooling with much greater efficiency and at much less cost than traditional methods – is rising steadily across the country. “More than 700,000 residential heat pumps are installed in Canada, [with] the widest uptake in markets that have extensive fuel oil heating or electric baseboard heating, [such as] Ontario and Quebec,” its website reports.

During COVID, heat pumps financing applications through NSP jumped sharply, with some reports suggesting that the utility was booking as many orders in one week in April 2021 as it had previously done in an entire month. Said Foster: “There have been approximately 35,000 customers who have financed heat pumps, water heaters and electric thermal storage units through our on-bill financing program. The program has been available for both residential and commercial customers [and] created value to customers by providing them with financial options to install more efficient heating equipment in their homes.”

Still, Mark Harnish, proprietor of M.E. Harnish Heating & Ventilation of Larry’s River Road – which covers Antigonish and Guysborough counties – doesn’t believe the sudden end of Nova Scotia Power’s financing program will dampen demand for heat pumps any time soon.

Although he declined to divulge specific numbers, he said his business is up 50 per cent compared to last year.

“Dollar for dollar, I don’t think Nova Scotia Power’s financing program was any cheaper [than the alternatives]. I never financed with them, myself, but I have financed a total of three units in my career, and I have 1,200 units [installed] out there. Everything I [install] is basically paid for on site. Certainly, local demand for heat pumps is growing, and [Nova Scotia Power’s decision] is not going to affect that one bit … It’s all about the price of oil.”

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal