A Nova Scotia power company Wednesday announced an agreement with CGI Group Inc. to handle the IT infrastructure for its Canadian and U.S. operations.

The seven-year, $39.3-million outsourcing contract will see CGI take over management

of Emera Inc.‘s infrastructure, including its data centre, help desk, network and desktop services. The company operates Nova Scotia Power, based in Halifax, and Bangor Hydro-Electric in Maine.

Emera purchased Bangor Hydro in 2001 and has been considering the best way to handle a disparate and geographically diverse IT infrastructure ever since, according to spokesperson Margaret Murphy. She said that by offloading technology to a third party, Emera can prepare itself to expand into other parts of northeastern North America through acquisition.

The CGI agreement was designed with this possibility in mind, said David Carrigan, director of business development, based in the outsourcer’s Halifax office. “”Emera is planning on expansion, and that was much of our conversation,”” he said. “”The expectation is that as they expand, we have the capability to expand with them.””

Another element of Emera’s decision to sign up with CGI was to hone its focus on energy production, its chief line of business. Last year was a difficult one for the industry at large. An August blackout shut down Ontario and much of the Eastern Seaboard for a day and Halifax suffered its own crisis when it was hit by Hurricane Juan in September.

“”Our core business continues to evolve — the need for standards, for scrutiny, for the ability to respond almost instantaneously to maintain a safe, reliable electrical supply,”” said Murphy. “”We’re constantly pushing ourselves, along with our colleagues and our peers to improve processes to allow us to do that.””

She added that, “”We’re also responsible for maintaining safe and reliable supplies (of electricity), not just in Nova Scotia and in our corner of Maine, but really in our region, the NPCC (Northeast Power Coordinating Council). That’s a large responsibility that we take very seriously; we’re part of the North American grid.””

The infrastructure operations for both of the Emera facilities will be managed from Halifax, though how much of it will be handled off-site and how much at the locations is yet to be determined, said Carrigan.

The fact that there is a border and different regulatory requirements between the two organizations will have an impact on the CGI agreement, he added.

Nova Scotia Power and Bangor Hydro-Electric are covered by the same service level agreements, but there are “”considerations that had to be taken into account on both sides,”” he said. “”We really had to take into account that from the (regulatory) point of view that this was seen as abiding by all the rules that they put forward — and there’s books and books of them.””

Thirty-three Emera staff members working in Halifax and Bangor will be affected by the deal. The future of their positions is “”in scope”” and has yet to be determined, said Murphy. They will remain Emera employees at least through the transition, which expected to take six to nine months.

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