Contrarian will live-blog NS Power customer forum

NSP Energy ForumOn February 12, 1891, the latest of many interruptions in his household’s supply of coal gas moved Samuel Langhorne Clemens, AKA Mark Twain, to write the Hartford Gas and Electric Company.

“Dear Sirs,” he began. “Some day you will move me almost to the verge of irritation by your chuckle-headed Goddamned fashion of shutting your Goddamned gas off without giving any notice to your Goddamned parishioners. Several times you have come within an ace of smothering half of this household in their beds and blowing up the other half by this idiotic, not to say criminal, custom of yours. And it has happened again today. Haven’t you a telephone?  Ys, S L Clemens”

Executives of Nova Scotia Power can be thankful Twain died 99 years ago, and never lived in Nova Scotia. Between Hurricane Juan in 2003 and the Utility and Review Board hearings last month, the utility has suffered more than enough assaults on its reputation without suffering Twain’s caustic tongue.

Reputation matters to most companies. It matters much more if you’re charged with managing a costly transition to climate friendly power production for customers who demand environmental responsibility, but show little appetite for the higher power bills it will require.

This weekend, for the third time in six years, Nova Scotia Power will gather 100 or so of its customers for a Customer Energy Forum, essentially an informed discussion of the energy policy issues facing the company. The idea is to give a representative sample of customers a bit more information about the nuts and bolts of these policy changes, and see how this influences their preferred solutions. You can see a brief account of the results of previous sessions here and here, and you can read the backgrounder booklet NSP produced for forum  participants here.

At the company’s invitation, I will observe the event and live blog the session throughout the day Saturday. Coming to grips with climate change poses problems that are technically intricate, politically onerous, and potentially the most difficult our generation will face. I am keen to see how NSP officials and technical experts frame the issues, and how typical customers respond.

Watch for one or two posts Friday evening, and frequent posts throughout the day Saturday.

[Disclosure: NSP will reimburse my expenses and pay me a fee for live-blogging this event. Company officials will not see my posts before they go live. Our agreement requires that my posts “will be fair and factual,” words that may prove a little slipperier than power company officials imagine. All in all, I think it’s an interesting leap of faith on the company’s part, but I expect to take some criticism for entering into a financial arrangement with a story subject. Maybe one or both of us, or you, dear readers, will conclude it was a mistake, but the Internet has changed everything about communications, and on balance, I think it’s an experiment worth trying.]