Fraser Forum

Atlantic Canada steeped in energy poverty, with no end in sight

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More households in Atlantic Canada experience energy poverty—a situation where more than 10 per cent of household expenditures are used to pay for energy—than anywhere else in Canada. And it may get worse, as premiers of the four Atlantic provinces (Newfoundland & Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) recently met with the feds to plan an energy future for the region that relies heavily on renewables (wind, solar, etc.) and may include a national price on carbon.

Earlier this year, the Fraser Institute released a study examining what Canadian households pay for energy consumption, both in the home and on the road. Using data from Statistics Canada, the study found that, on average, 7.9 per cent of Canadian households were in energy poverty in 2013. And that is only energy expenditures in the home.

In Atlantic Canada, by comparison, a stunning 20.6 per cent of households were in energy poverty as of 2013, up from 17.1 per cent in 2010. That’s a 20 per cent increase in only three years. And again, that’s only counting energy consumed in the home. If you also account for the cost of gasoline (an important energy-consumption metric overlooked in most studies of energy poverty) the number reaches an eye-popping 38.5 per cent as of 2013.

Adding more expensive renewables will not help Atlantic Canadians already burdened with high energy prices and expenditures. And a carbon tax will almost certainly exacerbate the situation. Margaret Miller, Nova Scotia environment minister, acknowledged (perhaps unintentionally) acknowledged  the cost of renewables and the people who pay. “We have wind energy and now we have tidal energy,” said Miller. “We have a lot of things moving forward that we’re really happy with. Things that really, Nova Scotians have already been paying for through their electricity costs.”

Canadians want clean energy, and Canada is committed to stiff greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. However, how those targets are met, and at what cost, are vitally important questions for the well-being of Canadian households. Almost 40 per cent of households in Atlantic Canada experience energy poverty.
As they proceed with their energy plans, the premiers in Atlantic Canada would do well to focus on making energy more affordable for their citizens, rather than actively making it more expensive.

 

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