N.S. deputy defends green energy strategy6/29/2012
Nova Scotia has no plan to cut back its aggressive green-energy goals, says the deputy energy minister.
Murray Coolican defended the province’s renewable electricity strategy during a Halifax speech Thursday, although he admitted ratepayers are miffed that their power bills are increasing as a result.
“Energy policy always has to be long-term, whereas politics and the public concentration are usually very short term,” Coolican told a Canadian Wind Energy Association luncheon.
“But we’re planning for the long-term in a very short-term world.”
The deputy minister said the province’s reliance on imported coal for electricity generation is what has been driving up rates, not utility executive salaries or the cost of adding renewable energy to the grid.
Coal prices have risen 75 per cent over the last seven years, he said.
Coolican said after the speech that troubles in the pulp and paper industry don’t change the fact the province needs a cleaner, more diverse energy mix.
“It’s something that we’re watching, but the main elements of our strategy remain in place,” he said in an interview.
“In fact, it probably makes (them) more apt.”
Energy prices will be more stable in the long run with more renewables on the system, Coolican said.
The government has introduced programs to help ratepayers with rising energy costs, including removing the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax on home heating fuel, as well as offering energy-efficiency programs, he said.
When asked about critics who say more wind farms and projects such as Labrador’s Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development may not be needed to reach provincial renewable energy targets if the industrial load is smaller, Coolican said proposed federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions must also be considered.
“We’ve still got a long way to go to meet those targets,” said the former Nova Scotia Power executive. “We see the major elements of our strategy remaining in place and being necessary.”
The strategy, introduced in 2010, mandates that 25 per cent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020.
That directive will add an average of one to two per cent a year to power bills in the coming years, officials say.
But Nova Scotia Power has proposed rate hikes of three per cent in each of the next two years because of the paper industry woes and rising costs.
While Energy Department officials aren’t anticipating major changes to the strategy, the plan is up for review starting this summer.
Bruce Cameron, the province’s executive director of sustainable and renewable energy, told the luncheon that the review was planned when the strategy was adopted.
“This is sort of like an 18-month health checkup,” Cameron said in an interview.
The review will include an opportunity for public input, he said.
(The Chronicle Herald)