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Nova Scotia’s potential path to net zero

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As Ottawa maps out how to achieve a net-zero grid by 2035, Nova Scotia believes it’s already moving in the right direction.

“I believe we’re on the same wavelength if you will, the same goals in mind,” Tory Rushton, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables said.

“But I do just want to emphasize the fact we’ve illustrated the fact it can’t be a cookie cutter model for every province”

The federal government’s clean electricity regulations aim to reach net zero by 2035, meaning emissions are reduced — and what is emitted is captured or absorbed somehow.

“What we’re talking about is not a fossil fuel free grid by 2035. It’s a net zero grid by 2035,” Steven Guibeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said last Thursday.

Nova Scotia is weaning itself off coal and has pledged to reach 80 per cent renewables by 2030.

Gradually, more renewables are being added to the grid. But the Atlantic Loop, which had the potential to provide Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with hydroelectricity from Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, is no longer the Houston government’s preferred path.

Instead, Minister Rushton is talking about new wind projects and an intertie between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick — a grid system that would connect the two provinces.

“We certainly believe we can extend that even further rather than just the intertie to New Brunswick. We can extend that right to Point Lepreau from Nova Scotia,” said Rushton.

Ottawa estimates its clean electricity regulations would increase the average Canadian’s energy bill between $35 to $61 per year by 2040 but only a small percentage would be because of the regulations.

Kris Sims with The Canadian Taxpayers doesn’t buy it.

“For them to come out and say ‘Oh well let us mess with your energy bills. Scouts honour, this won’t increase them very much. Common. We have to just look at the evidence and look at their track record,” said Sims.

Larry Hughes, a Dalhousie University Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has studied Nova Scotia’s energy security. After reviewing Nova Scotia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan, Hughes said most scenarios with the Atlantic Loop are somewhat more expensive than scenarios without the loop — but the Atlantic Loop would provide far fewer long-term emissions.

Hughes said there’s a push for renewables such as solar and wind but those sources can be variable, which means a firm source of energy is also required.

He believes the province could turn to natural gas, nuclear energy as well as storage.

He points out how the generation of nuclear energy would have to come from New Brunswick.

“No matter how we slice it, it is going to cost us more for electricity. How much more isn’t really known at this point because as it stands, the province doesn’t have an energy strategy,” said Hughes.

In order to meet Ottawa’s targets Nova Scotia has to reduce its energy intensity down to 30 tonnes per gigawatt hour.

“If we use natural gas we will probably not achieve the 30 tonnes per gigawatt hour but we will be very close,” Hughes said.

Brenna Walsh, Senior Energy Coordinator with Ecology Action Centre said she’s pleased to see the draft regulations come forward.

“We think that this transition can be affordable, provide good jobs, reduce emissions from the electricity sector, which cause undue health effects and is a really important piece in terms of addressing climate change in Canada,” Walsh said.

She said getting to Net Zero is possible in Nova Scotia, noting she’s happy to see the progress such as adding wind.

“The Atlantic Loop is looking to be a really important part of that transition,” Walsh said, adding she hopes conversations around financing options for the Atlantic Loop are ongoing between Ottawa and Nova Scotia.

Jacqueline Foster, spokesperson with Nova Scotia Power said the utility is committed to achieving the 2030 climate goals of moving off coal and reaching 80% renewable energy by 2030.

“We will be reviewing the CERs with the lens of understanding the implications for our customers and operations, with an emphasis on reliability and costs,” said Foster.

“Having clarity on Canada’s Clean Electricity Regulations, including the cost impacts of the transition, is an important step in achieving the clean energy future we are all working towards.”

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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