Plan to designate future Cogswell energy system a utility faces opposition

There's opposition to the plan by Halifax Water to have a district energy system for part of the Cogswell redevelopment in the city's downtown be considered a public utility.

Halifax Water wants to use heat from its sewage treatment plant to supply thermal energy to six developments that are planned nearby and could house up to 7,500 people.

The municipality has drafted a bylaw that would require the developments, which will replace the current interchange, to use the district energy system.

In an application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, Halifax Water said treating the system as a public utility is "in the public interest" and would protect its current customers from subsidizing it.

Halifax Water also argues the status as a public utility would ensure that costs are "appropriately allocated and within acceptable limits."

Heritage Gas, Nova Scotia Power oppose plan

Both Heritage Gas and Nova Scotia Power oppose the move. They both argue Halifax Water has not provided enough information or analysis.

Heritage Gas also states in its submission that allowing the district energy system to be a public utility would eliminate the choices of individuals and businesses.

"Regardless of cost, environmental concerns, changing technology or individual preference, every customer in the development would be required to use Halifax Water's energy," Heritage Gas wrote in its submission.

According to Nova Scotia Power, it is not clear Halifax Water would own and operate the system or if it would be operated by an affiliate.

The group Affordable Energy Coalition supports the application by Halifax Water, as does the province's consumer advocate, who said the description of the Cogswell district energy system "on balance fulfills the guidelines" of the Public Utilities Act. But the consumer advocate also warned that "care must be taken to avoid any cross-subsidization."

Halifax Water has until April 16 to respond to the submissions.

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