The president of Nova Scotia Power says the cost of the deal attached to the Newpage Port Hawkesbury sale will be covered by shareholders – not ratepayers.

Rob Bennett told a business audience in Halifax Tuesday the partnership with Pacific West Commercial Corp. will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he tells the Herald the costs have been covered internally.

Under the terms of the deal, the Point Tupper mill gets a reduced power rate partly paid for by the dividends from the 30 per cent share Nova Scotia Power will acquire.

Pacific West says the agreement will save $32 million a year, and Bennett says Nova Scotia Power customers are better off if the mill is operating.

During the same speech, Bennett defended the 23 per cent raise he received last year, saying it’s “average” when compared to other Canadian companies.

Bennett made a total of $1.15 million in 2011-12, and told the audience his compensation is subject to a “myriad” of reviews.

He tells the Herald the company board of directors uses a “very diligent process” to set compensation levels.

Ratepayers cover all base salaries and half of the incentives for four Nova Scotia Power executives.

The figures were revealed last month, just after the company announced it’s seeking rate hikes of three per cent in each of the next two years.

Protesters are planning a demonstration outside tomorrow’s shareholder meeting of Emera, Nova Scotia Power’s parent company.