Berwick Electric Commission

History of the Berwick Electric Commission

A Short History Of The Berwick Electric Commission

The community has operated a hydroelectric generating system on the South Branch Annapolis River since 1921, prior to its incorporation as the Town of Berwick in 1923. Previously, dams upstream from the present day headpond in Factorydale had been constructed and used for log driving. There was a sawmill at the Factorydale site until 1919 or so, operated by the Easson family. In the period 1919-1921, the Town acquired this property from the Eassons and converted the millpond to a hydro headpond. The upstream dams were used to impound water for later generation, as well as using run of river. The first generator was a 125 kW machine. In the early 1920s, Berwick supplied electricity to residents of the Town, and to local distribution companies in Morristown, Aylesford, and Somerset. Subsequently, the Avon River Light and Power Company built a 22 kV transmission line along the Dominion Atlantic Railway ROW and began buying up local distribution companies, and selling power to Berwick and other communities which retained their utilities.

Hydroelectric Dam And Penstock, Factorydale

Berwick continued to operate the Factorydale plant, and in the 1930s replaced the original generator with a 250 kW machine. Purchases of energy were made from Avon River and its successor, Nova Scotia Light and Power. NSL&P has since been merged with the provincially-owned Nova Scotia Power Commission and later privatized as Nova Scotia Power Incorporated. Berwick has purchased power from these companies as well as generating a portion of the Town’s electric load. In 1952 Berwick acquired a lease on Crown lands around Burnt Dam Flowage and increased hydro storage at that site, replacing the old log-driving timber dam with earthen dams and installing a submerged gate. In 1961 the Town acquired water rights to Randall and Birch Lakes, formally used by the McMaster lumber mill in Rockway Notch. A diversion canal was excavated to carry water to the East Branch from Randall Lake. It is believed that no additions were made to the McMaster dams on Randall. Birch Lake has never been diverted and it is unlikely that this will be done. At extreme high water Randall Lake overflows into Birch Lake and diversion would require raising any dams left on Birch Lake and excavating a canal between the two lakes. This was engineered in the early 1960s but never executed. Also in the early 60s, some work was done to rebuild the dam and gate control on South River (Parker) Lake. It is not known whether pondage was increased at that time.

In the period 1964 to 1968, design work and improvements were carried out on the headpond and generating plant in Factorydale, including building a new penstock and surge tank, and constructing a new powerhouse. A larger generator of 520kVa was installed.

In 1976, an Act of the Legislature created the Berwick Electric Commission (BEC) to manage the utility on behalf of the Town. Real property remains vested in the Town. In 1983, the Factorydale dam was resurfaced and reinforced with shotcrete, four + inches applied over 4 x 4 reinforcing mesh pinned to the upstream and downstream faces. Through the 1980s and early 1990s, various solutions were tried to correct a structural problem involving the draft tube in the powerhouse, now stable.

Since the 1960s, no structural changes have been made to storage or diversion dams. Gate mechanisms have been repaired or replaced, and erosion damage at the Burnt Dam runaround spillway was repaired. On three occasions in the 1980s, BEC worked on bridge replacement with the Department of Natural Resources on the roadways providing access to the storage lakes. Some consideration was given to repairing an old log-driving dam on Lower Palmer Lake around 1990, but the project was deemed uneconomic. Following a 1992 agreement with Fisheries and Oceans to maintain minimum water flows in summer months, apertures were cut in control gates to serve this end and gauging stakes were driven in stream beds.

In 1997, the BEC investigated the value of building a second generating plant upstream of the Factorydale site at Beals Falls. A study done by Neill & Gunter failed to prove that the project had value; this may be re-examined in the near future. In 2000, BEC installed a catwalk and lifting beam over the spillway on the Factorydale dam to address safety and operational issues. 2003 saw the installation of automation including peak management software in the Factorydale generating station, with remote control from the Berwick Operations Office. Strum Engineering of Dartmouth designed and fabricated this system for our installation. In 2004, BEC replaced 800 feet of the 48 inch diameter wood stave penstock that was installed in 1968. The work was done by Elliott Excavation of Waverly, engineered by YMCL. This leaves about 200 feet and the wood stave surge tank from the 1968 build. EastPoint Engineering is about to commence a study to identify how and how soon these replacements should be made. In 2006-7, Mitchelmore Engineering (now MECO) carried out an inundation study and prepared an Emergency Response Plan for the Hydro system.

In 2008, BEC engaged Daeco Construction to reinforce the Factorydale Headpond Dam with rock anchors, extra mass, and a redesigned spillway to meet safety criteria of the Canadian Dam Association. By design, the spillway can pass virtually all floods of normal probability and the dam structure can withstand overtopping in the event of an upstream dam failure. Mitchelmore did this design work following an assessment done earlier by YMCL that indicated reinforcement was required.

Today, the Berwick Electric Commission operates one fully capable double bucket truck, a digger derrick for pole setting, a vehicle for general transportation and a diesel 4x4 and a tracked vehicle for hydro operations. BEC also assists the Town of Berwick with daily operations as needed, and help to support special community events such as Gala Days.

Billing and Administration

Billing and administration for the Berwick Electric Commision are located in the Town Hall offices at 236 Commercial Street.

Domestic bills are issued every two months, while commercial billings occur monthly.

Berwick Electric Commission Billing

Domestic bills are issued every two months and commercial bills are issued monthly. Payment is due within 30 days of the date rendered.

If you would like to receive your electric bills electronically, or discuss how to make regular payments outside of the billing cycle, please email

Berwick Electric Commission: New Customer 

New homeowners/tenants are required to complete and sign an electric service contract.

You can complete it electronically by following the link below:

The Berwick Electric Service contract

Or you can complete the form at the Berwick Town Hall offices, located at:

236 Commercial Street
Berwick, NS
Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4:00 pm

A deposit equal to the estimated charges for two months’ service is required, in addition to a $20.00 initial connection charge.

Payment Options

Online Banking: Available at most financial institutions. Please contact your financial institution for set-up support.

E-Transfer: Please send payment to:

In your message please include your account number and name.

In-Person at your Financial Institution

By Mail:
Please make a cheque payable to Berwick Electric Commission and mail it to:
Berwick Electric Commission
PO Box 130
Berwick, NS B0P 1E0

In-Person at Town Hall:
236 Commercial St.
Berwick, NS
Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. We accept cash, cheques, and debit cards.
For your convenience, payments may be placed in the drop box to the left of the front entrance. Please put payments in an envelope and note if you wish to have a receipt mailed.

Wiring Permits And Inspections

You can complete the application electronically by following the link below:

Application for Wiring Permit and Inspection

Wiring Permits are available at Town Hall 236 Commercial Street, Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4:00 pm

For inspections contact the Finance Administration Coordinator at 902-538-8068 ext 4009


Access the most recent Berwick Electric Commission Rates

Berwick Electric Commission

Burnt Dam BEC Hydro Photo Credit: Jeff Bushell

The Berwick Electric Commission (BEC) operates the distribution system that serves the Town and some adjacent areas of Kings County.

Staff undertake line construction and maintenance, meter installations and meter reading, hydro control and maintenance, and standby duty and trouble calls. Operationally, the BEC employs three Powerline Technicians who conduct meter work and hydro operations as well.

Customer service for new accounts, and other day to day requests, are completed by the Finance Administration Coordinator who works from the Berwick Town Hall.

The Berwick Electric Commission operates one fully capable double bucket truck, a digger derrick for pole setting, a vehicle for general transportation and a diesel 4x4 and a tracked vehicle for hydro operations. BEC also assists the Town of Berwick with daily operations as needed, and help to support special community events such as Gala Days.


Phone: (902) 538-8068 extension 4009
Afterhours Power Outage Dispatch: (902) 678-1666