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Nova Scotia: Electro-State

Renewable energy expert Neal Livingston says Nova Scotia will export its renewable energy and keep the coal burning

by Tom MacDonald

Tuft's Cove power plant in Halifax - Photo by Glenn Euloth
Tuft's Cove power plant in Halifax - Photo by Glenn Euloth
Neal Livingston speaking at The Hub in Halifax.  November 19, 2010 - Photo by Allan
Neal Livingston speaking at The Hub in Halifax. November 19, 2010 - Photo by Allan
An evacuated-tube solar hot water heater on a roof.
An evacuated-tube solar hot water heater on a roof.

Nova Scotia could soon follow in the footsteps of the Alberta tar sands energy boom. But instead of exporting upgraded bitumen, Nova Scotia – the province with the 4th largest amount of greenhouse gas emissions - would play a rather ironic role: that of renewable energy exporter.

“We’re becoming a sort of an electro-state the same way that you can be a petro-state like Alberta where, you know, very few interests really are the dominant players in the society,” says Neal Livingston. “All this hooey we heard about having to be better [grid]-connected to north-eastern North America, when you think about it now, it’s all about our preparation for export.”

Livingston, a filmmaker with 40 titles under his belt, has been a renewable energy practitioner in Cape Breton for 30 years. He owns the Black River brand of renewable energy companies, the holdings of which include a hydro facility and several industrial scale wind turbines in development. This week he delivered a public presentation to a small crowd gathered at The Hub in Halifax.

Livingston has been trying to sound the alarm on Nova Scotia’s energy policy by calling into question the motivations behind the government’s new Renewable Electricity Plan. The recently released plan requires that, by 2025, 40% of the electricity that Nova Scotia Power sells in a given year must come from renewable energy sources.

“When the province legislated 40% renewables… nobody seemed to notice that that wasn’t linked to coal reductions; the coal reductions are separate, and those coal reductions are relatively minor… by 2020 in the range of 8 to 10 per cent.”

Against a backdrop of climate change, fossil fuel price swings, and relentlessly rising energy costs, Livingston paints a disturbing portrait of a provincial energy policy that is shifting away from a dwindling petro-economy, based on rapidly depleting offshore natural gas, towards an electro-economy based on growing exports of renewable electricity to New England.

“It appears that we’re staging up very quickly for Emera to own a transmission line from Nova Scotia to New England, and we’re going to export the renewables, without turning off coal. So that’s rather despicable because… I think that’s not what the public wants, or thinks they’re getting,” says Livingston.

This past week in a joint press conference, the governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland announced that renewable electricity from the Lower Churchill hydro mega-project in Labrador will be connected via sub-sea cable to Newfoundland, carried across the province, and then connected via another sub-sea cable to Cape Breton.

Emera is investing $2 billion dollars in the project, and will own 20% of the electricity that is produced, or 8% of Nova Scotia’s needs. The company can then sell the electricity to New England in order to meet the 40% renewable energy goal.

“If we’re going to bring power in from Newfoundland, here’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn off, let’s say, 5 out of 7 of our coal fired power plants… and that’s not the plan. So effectively we’re allowing the next 50 years to 100 years of our energy supply to be planned around a private company and its profit, and that’s not coming with significant coal reductions in the short term.”

Livingston points to the new biomass plant in Port Hawkesbury and the new tidal power projects in the Bay of Fundy as further examples of Nova Scotia’s electricity future being planned around large corporate interests.

“What we’re doing is throwing shovel-loads and bucket-loads of public money at tidal power, and who’s doing the tidal power work? Well, it’s Minas Pulp and Paper, [which is owned by] the richest family in the province, and Emera, which is the largest company.”

But there is a decentralized, home-scaled approach to renewable energy development that returns ownership of our energy production into the hands of the public, says Livingston.

“The technologies can all be on our homes and buildings, and that means that in step one you put solar hot air and solar hot water [heaters] on all your buildings.  On a societal level, if we went and put 100,000 of these on in the next five years on Nova Scotia homes and buildings, we’d massively add a bunch of employment and we’d make a big carbon reduction, and we’d have those benefits land from the energy savings in your pocket,” he says.

“Then the following five years you can go with the same crews of people who are trained, and you can put photovoltaics… on people’s homes, and effectively all our homes and buildings could become carbon-neutral at that point.”

The future of Nova Scotia's energy system boils down to a simple question, says Livingston.

“Do you end up with one or two large corporate interests owning all of the energy supply in Nova Scotia, or do you end up with all of us owning this?”

 

**CORRECTION:

The Renewable Electricity Plan sets a target of 40% renewable energy by 2020, not 2025.  This represents a aspiration only, and has not yet been legislated.


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Comments

There are a several false

There are a several false statements in this article:

  • There are 4 coal plants in NS, not 7.
  • 40% by 2020 is not legislated - it's just a goal. The 25% by 2015 target is legislated.
  • It's 40% by 2020, not 2025
  • Right now coal makes up 75% of our electricity generation. If we get to 40% renewables, that means there WILL HAVE TO BE A REDUCTION IN coal use to no more than 60%, and probably less with the natural gas/oil plant in Dartmouth.
  • Emissions restrictions from the federal government (if they ever come) and the provincial restrictions will basically mean NSPI will have to scuttle at least one coal plant anyway, regardless of renewables targets. They're probably not talking about this due to the devastating impact on the local communities from the job losses involved.
  • My understanding of this is that there will be 500 MW coming ashore from the Lower Churchill project, with 180 or so to stay in NS and the rest to be exported. We're not exporting that 20% or total output.

Certainly NSPI has a hell of a lot more to do to make up for all of its failings, but it finally feels like they get that now and are starting to work on things.

"There are 4 coal plants in

"There are 4 coal plants in NS, not 7."

Actually, there are seven coal plants.  4 x 150MW plants at Lingan, plus Pt Aconi, Pt Hawkes, and Trenton.

The hydro line may be making landfall near lingan in Cape Breton.  If it did, there could be a great opportunity to retire 2 or more of the coal plants there.

***On a side note, the CBC also reported:

"five of the province's seven coal-fired plants could be shut down if the power from the Newfoundland and Labrador project stayed in Nova Scotia."

 

40% by 2020 is not legislated - it's just a goal. The 25% by 2015 target is legislated.

You are correct.  The Renewable Electricity Regulations are the law, and they only have a renewable electricity standard up to 25% by 2015.  Livingston was mistaken when he said "province legislated 40% renewables"

The Renewable Electricity Plan is not a piece of legislation, but it sets the goal of 40% renewable electricity sales by 2025.

 

It's 40% by 2020, not 2025

Good eye!  I will change this.  However, it is only a goal, and so may well be amended to 2025.

 

"Right now coal makes up 75% of our electricity generation. If we get to 40% renewables, that means there WILL HAVE TO BE A REDUCTION IN coal use to no more than 60%, and probably less with the natural gas/oil plant in Dartmouth."

According to my source at Nova Scotia power, 67% of the energy sold by them last year came from burning coal.

IF we get to 40% renewables in 2020, it doesn't automatically mean a reduction  in coal burning.  What if we simply added more renewable energy onto the system without shutting down the coal plants so that NSPI could say "40% of our sales are renewable energy", but the amount of coal burned every year is the same.

That is the point of the article... that renewable energy targets in NS are not tied to coal reductions.

 

"Emissions restrictions from the federal government (if they ever come) and the provincial restrictions will basically mean NSPI will have to scuttle at least one coal plant anyway, regardless of renewables targets. They're probably not talking about this due to the devastating impact on the local communities from the job losses involved."

The provincial emissions reduction legislation requires that Nova Scotia as a whole reduces it's facility emissions from 19.22 million tonnes of C02eq this year, to 7.5 million by 2020.

It remains to be seen whether or not there will be any federal requirements on top of this, but likely they would not be more aggressive than this.

It also remains to be seen whether or not the NS government will throw out these regulations once we start coming to the deadlines and not meeting them.  This happened already this year when the province threw it's mercury emission standards out the window with the memorable quote from Minister of Natural Resources and Energy (wtf?) Bill Estabrooks: "I'll put the people first"

  

"My understanding of this is that there will be 500 MW coming ashore from the Lower Churchill project, with 180 or so to stay in NS and the rest to be exported. We're not exporting that 20% or total output."  

You are correct.  NSPI will get to have 200 out of a guranteed 500 MW (40%) to use in the province, should they wish to do so.  There is also the possibility that we could get more than 500MW, since Nalcor is only claiming 40% as well.  That leaves the door open for an additional 250MW that has yet to be claimed by either Nalcor or Emera.

Right now, our coal, oil, and natural gas plants have 1869 MW of capacity, so IF we were to retire 200 MW of this capacity thanks to the hydro deal, then that would represent a 10% decrease in our fossil fuel burning for electricity

 

 

THANKS FOR THE COMMENT!  These are really important points.

Just a note: There is only

Just a note: There is only ever one coal fired generator going in Lingan at any one time, so calling that 4 coal fired plants is a little bit ridiculous.  Not that burning coal is great, I just wanted to clarify what the reality is.  Also, like a previous poster stated, The Lower Churchill project may end the life of one of the coal fired plants.... but if this does happen, that will result in HUNDREDS of unionized workers becoming unemployed... but realistically, Pt Aconi is too new to close, and Lingan makes so much power, they may just scale back the output across the board...

This is exactly why we need

This is exactly why we need to have a green jobs strategy to employ the people who currently sell their labour to the fossil fuel industry.

This is where the 100,000 solar panels in 5 years plan comes in.

This would provide hundreds of jobs, the money would stay in the province, and we would be able to retire a coal fired power plant or two for lack of workforce because suddenly everyone works in the green industry.  Imagine!

our collective energy future

we should get an online forum going between our provinces and start asking some serious questions via the mainstream media.

williams was over here for the past seven years almost killing himself to shore up the energy resources in this province while trying to be viewed as the almighty saviour. what a joke that guy was. his time in office read like bad book titled 'here's how to amalgamate and sell all a peoples future resource wealth, and set yourself up as newfoundland's first billionaire at the same time'.

the snc-lavalin group needs to be looked at and how they may play a role in the infrastructure of the line and its maintenance. there's something between them, williams and emera other than what we're seen so far. huge private dollars genearted from these public resources being the most likely 

SNC Lavalin's Connection

If you want to know how SNC Lavalin figures into this whole mess, consider this:

"This report covers three time frames:

•    The  short  term  time  frame,  from  present  to  2012,  which  examines  the  existing transmission  system  reliability  and  the  impact  of  integrating  renewable  resources  to meet  2010  Renewable  Energy  Standard  (RES)  and  2010  Green  House  Gas  (GHG) emission cap requirements;

•    The  medium  term  timeframe,  which  discusses  the  prospects  of  transmission  system development  five  years  out;  and  the  transmission  system  requirements  to  maintain reliable system operation and to integrate renewable resources to meet 2013 RES and 2015 GHG emission caps; and

•    The longer term time frame, 2015 to 2020 and beyond, which discusses the prospects of the  transmission  system  to  meet  integration  of  renewable  resources  to  meet  the  2015 renewable  target  and  2020  GHG  emission  caps  and  development  of  domestic  and regional resources which facilitate large scale export and import of renewable energy."
 

  • The report also states that:

    "Demand Side Management programs are expected to result in lower load growth rate."

    Demand Side Management is a piece of industry jargon that I am familiar with, and it is taken to mean trying to reduce the consumption of electricity through end use efficiency upgrades.  What this sentence effectively shows is that SNC Lavalin does not think that Nova Scotia will see a peak in electricity use, and therefore needs to continue to grow their amount capacity.

    Pretty meek philosophy for a program that is supposed to reduce our electricity consumption if the benchmark is set at simply curbing future growth
     

  • SNC Lavalin is one of the largest corporations in the world (it is one of the top 10 biggest engineering firms in the world), and they supply a huge number of contractors and engineering consultants to Nova Scotia, including Nova Scotia Power...

  he sold his private

 

he sold his private offshore technology firm (spectrol) to snc-lavalin before getting in. i wonder what 'gentlemen's agreements' were part of that deal, and were there any records from that time in his old law office that burnt down? that's a bit conspiracy-like, but just imagine if he's actually in that deep. star lake hydro, and his illegal seizure of that private property will play a role in this once the water issue start to hit the news as well. 

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