A $35-million plan to help Nova Scotians adjust to rising energy costs will provide immediate financial relief for those with the greatest need, while helping everyone, including government, conserve energy and save money in the future.
"Energy costs are rising everywhere in the world, due to global market forces, and the trend of higher energy prices is likely to continue," Energy Minister Cecil Clarke said today, Oct. 12. "We've developed a fair and reasonable plan that includes targeted measures to help those facing real hardship, practical measures to help everyone adjust to the new reality of higher energy prices, and stringent measures to get government's own house in order."
Government will invest $25 million to expand Keep the Heat, a home heating rebate and efficiency program for low-income Nova Scotians.
"The changes mean that more Nova Scotia families who need help will get it," said Barry Barnet, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. "The program combines immediate help with long-term energy and financial savings. We're confident that our program is one of the most generous of its kind in Canada."
Families with incomes under $25,000 and single people with incomes under $15,000, will now qualify. Rebates for those who heat with oil or propane will increase 25 per cent over last year, to $250. Users of other fuels and electricity will be able to apply for a $100 rebate.
Everyone eligible for a rebate will receive a free energy savings kit, valued at $50, to help them achieve permanent energy savings. Oil users may also be eligible for a furnace tune-up voucher. Also, as part of a Keep the Heat pilot program, 3,000 electricity users will qualify to have thermostats in their homes replaced with more accurate models that reduce electricity use.
An estimated 73,000 Nova Scotia households are eligible for the Keep the Heat program, roughly double the number last year. Applications will be available in mid-November.
Government will invest another $10 million in programs and incentives to help all Nova Scotians, including businesses and government, use energy more carefully and economically.
"With global energy forces as they are, no government can afford to buy its way out of higher prices," said Mr. Clarke. "But smart government investments can be targeted to help Nova Scotians adapt to the rapidly changing energy environment."
Among the $10 million in programs and incentives is an energy efficiency and conservation program. The program will invest $4.5 million to increase the amount of assistance available for retrofitting homes under the federal EnerGuide for Houses program. All Nova Scotians who carry out a home energy audit under this program will receive a free energy savings kit from the Department of Energy. The province will also match the federal grant, up to a maximum of $1,000. About $2 million of the $4.5 million will be earmarked to help seniors with modest incomes take advantage of this program. In addition to the incentives available to all Nova Scotians, senior couples with incomes less than $40,000 and single seniors with incomes less than $25,000 will receive a free audit and qualify for an extra $400 grant.
Provincial assistance for the EnerGuide for Houses program will apply to audits carried out after today, Oct. 12.
Purchasers of selected high-efficiency heating equipment -- such as furnaces, wood pellet stoves and EPA-certified wood stoves, solar water heating systems, and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs -- will share in $3.5 million worth of rebates and other incentives. There will also be an energy-efficient lighting incentive for businesses and institutions, and expansion of the existing LED traffic signal replacement for municipalities.
A $1-million public education initiative will help Nova Scotians better manage rising energy costs. This program will include awareness campaigns linked to various new incentives, an enhanced toll-free EnerInfo line, web-based information, school-based programs, and other community-based programs to encourage Nova Scotians to make smart energy choices. Government will seek proposals from non-government organizations with energy conservation or environmental protection mandates to promote the use of energy-efficient vehicles. An energy tips campaign will begin in late October.
The remaining $1 million will help government improve the energy efficiency of its own buildings, vehicles, and operations. Government has already taken steps to get its own house in order by: adopting tough energy-efficiency standards for new government buildings, including schools and hospitals; initiating policies that require the purchase of energy-efficient office equipment, and; training more than 200 staff in environmentally responsible vehicle operation and maintenance.
In addition, government will conduct energy efficiency retrofits of existing buildings, implement green purchasing policies, encourage opportunities to use alternative and "green" energy, and introduce an awareness program to help employees use energy more wisely in the workplace.
"Rising energy costs affect the whole province, including government," said Mr. Clarke. "We must share in the same solutions.
A preliminary review immediately following Hurricane Katrina indicates that energy costs for the province have the potential to increase by an estimated $14 million to $25 million.
"Our plan is realistic and affordable. It won't jeopardize the good work that this government -- and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia -- have done to get our finances in order. We're not trying to buy our way out of a situation beyond any government's control," said Mr. Clarke. "Instead, we will lead by example, while helping all Nova Scotians do their part to be more energy conscious."
Details and applications for Keep the Heat will be available in mid-November. Further information on other programs will be announced when details are finalized, in the weeks and months ahead. Background information is available on the programs by following the Smart Energy Choices link on the website at www.gov.ns.ca
FOR BROADCAST USE:
A 35-million-dollar program will help Nova Scotians adjust
to higher energy prices.
Most of the money -- 25 million dollars -- will fund an
expanded home heating rebate and energy efficiency program for
low-income individuals and families.
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister Barry
Barnet says the changes will mean more help for more Nova
The remaining 10 million dollars will be used to create
energy efficiency incentives and to improve government's energy
Energy Minister Cecil Clarke calls the package fair and
reasonable. He says the plan offers relief for those who need it
most while helping all Nova Scotians -- including government --
conserve energy and save money in the future.
Media Contacts: Wendy Barnable
Department of Energy
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations