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Nova Scotia pins its energy hopes on electricity and renewables

mahone-bayJust ahead of sending Environment Minister Randy Delorey to Paris along with Canada’s contingent of representatives for climate change talks next month, Nova Scotia released a report on Monday called Our Electricity Future: Nova Scotia’s Electricity Plan, which states that “By 2040, the province will have moved from among the most carbon-intense electricity generators in the country to a green powerhouse.”

A big part of that hope depends on the completion of the Maritime Link, a $1.6 billion 170-kilometre undersea cable linking the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador, down to Newfoundland and then along to Nova Scotia.

The Maritime Link, a collaboration between Nalcor Energy and Emera Inc., is scheduled to be up and running in October 2017.

Phase 1 of Nova Scotia’s plan runs until 2020, with the objectives of providing rate stability to consumers, introducing more competition into the energy marketplace and decreasing the province’s carbon emissions.

Rate stability is a key driver of the plan, since Nova Scotians have seen a 70% increase in cost for power over the past decade.

Today, Nova Scotia’s energy needs are still largely met by coal, which provides 60% of total energy consumed. This is down, however, from 73% in 2005.

Meanwhile, renewables constitute 22% today of the total energy consumption pie, up from 8% in 2005, and projected to climb to 40% by 2018.

Nova Scotia intends to focus on increasing the use of solar photo-voltaic, tidal power and energy storage technologies to help increase the role of renewables in the energy economy.

The Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) is now testing the waters for the installation of undersea turbines in the Bay of Fundy.

Nova Scotia’s energy report speculates that if tidal power “achieves its production goal of 300 MW within the next decade, there will be times when tidal power is surplus to Nova Scotia’s needs and could be exported.”

In the immediate near term, the goal for the FORCE site near Parsborro is to generate between 16 and 22 MW of energy, which will establish Nova Scotia as one of three leaders in the development of tidal energy.

Recently, the government passed the Electricty Reform Act, which will open competition in the electricity marketplace to “micro-innovation” projects and see the implementation of a “Renewables to Retail” marketplace, which will allow non-traditional sources like solar, wind and tidal power to have access to the grid.

This new marketplace will begin implementation through a series of small scale pilot programs, allowing homeowner, businesses and institutions to sell surplus power generated by renewable sources back to the grid, in amounts 20 kW or less.

Nova Scotia will also invest in a Community Buildings Solar PV pilot program, which will see the installation of solar panels on town halls, fire halls and community centres.

Research projects focusing on energy innovation will also be supported by an Electricity Innovation pilot program.

These pilot programs will be awarded by the end of 2019.

For renewables, the next challenge is storage.

Companies such as Neothermal, which is working on a new method of home heat storage, and LightSail, a Queen’s County based company that is working on a new solution to store wind energy in colder climates, are examples of home-grown initiatives that could turn Nova Scotia from a consumer of dirty energy to a producer of clean power.

Long term, however, Nova Scotia is biding its time until the day in 2041 when Hydro Quebec’s contract for power from the 5500 MW Upper Churchill project in Labrador finally expires, at which point Nova Scotia’s government hopes to have developed capacity for electricity generation from the Maritime Link, among other sources, to replace that source.

Newfoundland & Labrador, in particular, has long resented the historical burden of its lopsided contract with Hydro Quebec, the historical result of a long game of brinkmanship carried out in the time of Joey Smallwood, Jean Lesage and Réné Levesque, a game which saw Newfoundland locked in to a losing deal until 2041.

Nova Scotia, meanwhile, is pinning its hopes on reducing the role of coal in its energy consumption profile and implementing a new marketplace for renewables to make it an energy leader.

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