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Nova Scotia Power granted 1.3% residential fuel-cost hike for each of next 3 years

Nova Scotia residents can expect their power bills to rise1.3% a year over the next three years after the provincial regulator approvedthe increase to cover fuel costs for Emera Inc.-owned utility Nova Scotia Power Inc.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, or UARB, found theutility's estimates of C$509.8 million, C$688.1 million and C$653.7 million forits base cost of fuel in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively, were reasonable.The ruling affirms a consensus settlement reached by Nova Scotia Power,consumer and small-business advocates, an industrial group and other municipalelectricity utilities. It anticipates that power will start flowing from theMuskrat Fallsproject in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2019.

Small industrial customers will face a 0.5% rate hike ineach of the next three years, medium-size industrial users will pay 1.6% moreannually and large industrial consumers will face an increase of 1.4% a year.Port Hawkesbury Paper, a large industrial user that was a party to theconsensus settlement, did not oppose the pact but did not sign it, the UARB said.

Under 2015 legislation designed to offer cost stability forcustomers, Nova Scotia Power is required to submit new estimates of itsthree-year fuel costs every second year to the provincial regulator. Theutility must incorporate those anticipated costs into its customer rates. Theprojections are trued with actual costs, and the UARB decides how thedifference will be addressed in a separate hearing.

"The board is satisfied that [Nova Scotia Power] hascorrectly calculated the total [base cost of fuel] amounts," the UARBruling said. "The board is satisfied that the consensus agreement is inthe public interest, that it satisfies the requirements of the Electricity PlanImplementation [2015] Act, and that it should be approved. In the board'sopinion, the agreement provides for rates that are just and reasonable."

Emera is a partner in the Maritime Link, a transmissionnetwork connecting Muskrat Falls on Labrador's Lower Churchill River withCanada's eastern provinces. NalcorEnergy Corp., the province-owned company behind the 824-MWhydroelectric project, in June said the project will start electricity in 2019 beforereaching full capacity in mid-2020, a year behind schedule.

Earlier this month Nova Scotia Power issued a request forproposals to supply the midsulfur coal it uses to generate most of its power.