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Port Hawkesbury Paper power hearing to start Feb. 11

POINT TUPPER, N.S. (From news reports) -- The provincial regulator will hold a hearing next month into a proposed new power rate for Port Hawkesbury Paper, the largest employer in the Strait of Canso area.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board has set Feb. 11 as the opening date for the hearing, with Feb. 12-14 reserved and an evening session on Feb. 10, if necessary. The hearing is to be held at the board offices at Summit Place on Lower Water Street in Halifax.

The hearing is open to the public. Written comments can also be made to the board.

Among those who have been granted intervener status in the matter are the province's consumer advocate, represented by William J. Mahody and Emily Mason, with its application noting the proposal will have an impact on residential ratepayers and the consumer advocate intends to represent their interests; and the small business advocate, which represents three classes of small businesses -- business, general and small industrial.

Those with formal intervener status are Efficiency One, a public utility and franchise holder for the provision of electricity efficiency and conservation services to Nova Scotia Power; and the Industrial Group, which represents medium industrial customers of the utility, including Irving Shipbuilding, Maritime Paper Products, Oxford Frozen Foods and Michelin North America.

Last month the provincial regulator approved on an interim basis the proposed new power rate for the Point Tupper papermaker and set dates for a hearing where a final determination on the tariff will be made.

Port Hawkesbury Paper and Nova Scotia Power Inc. have filed an application with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board for a new electricity rate for the mill, the utility's largest single customer.

Because the current load retention rate paid by the papermaker was due to expire at the end of the year, the mill and utility asked the board to grant the new rate on an interim basis beginning Jan. 1, which was granted.

Under the proposed rate, Nova Scotia Power would have more authority to scale back or ramp up the mill's power usage, with the mill turning over the keys to the utility from an electricity supply perspective depending upon the system load. In essence, it would treat the mill as part of its system -- NSP tells its own plants what load to run, and now that would also be extended to Port Hawkesbury Paper.

The mill uses approximately 10 per cent of Nova Scotia Power's system load, annually.

When the mill reopened in 2012 after a yearlong sales process, it received a special load retention tariff for the electricity that it uses. Under the tariff, the mill is to pay for the costs of generating electricity for it to operate and also to contribute to Nova Scotia Power's fixed costs.

The mill currently employs approximately 330 direct employees and supports about 500 indirect jobs. It produces glossy paper for the catalogue and flyer market.

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