Car News

Utilities Board Pulls Plug on NS Charging Plans

While other provinces work to roll out more and more EV infrastructure, a planned network of fast chargers has been given a speed bump by Nova Scotia regulators.

It was a big announcement for Nova Scotia Power last August. A new network of 12 Level 3 fast charging stations covering the province's major highways. “Electric vehicles are the future, and we want to help make Nova Scotia ready for that future,” said Karen Hutt, President and CEO of Nova Scotia Power.

In addition to adding a charging network, the project was also intended to help the energy utility  understand how electric vehicles consumed power from the plug, important data when it comes to planning for the future.

The cost of the 12 chargers was budgeted at $884,000, with Nova Scotia power paying half and Natural Resources Canada paying the other half. They were to be ready for use by April of this year.

But in Nova Scotia, capital expenditures by the power company of over $250,000 need to receive the approval of the province's Utility and Review Board. The NSUARB regulates public services ranging from bus licensing to insurance, to power company rates and spending. And in their hearing about the new charging network, the NSUARB said no.

The NSUARB gave two main reasons for denying the expenditure. The first was that they found that charging stations are not a regulated utility service. The board treated the stations like the water heater in your home or the shore power provided to boats. Because of that, they "need not be owned by NSPI." That means the utility can't use money from ratepayers to build these EV chargers.

The NSUARB's findings for the other part of the project was that while NS Power "should research the load patterns of the EV charging stations and the impact they may have on the electricity system," that it needs to do it using existing privately owned charging stations. There are currently two Level 3 stations in the province.

The summary said that NS Power doesn't need to own the stations to monitor them, and that owning EV charging stations is "not for the distribution or furnishing of electrical energy." 

This is in stark contrast to neighbouring New Brunswick, where a charging network owned by the province's public utility is already in operation. Prince Edward Island has also announced a network of Level 3 charging.

It is still possible for the project to proceed, but the money from NS Power can't come from ratepayers. A spokesperson from NS Power said that the utility would be in a better position to talk about the status of the project in a few weeks.