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Nova Scotia's failing on climate change

A response to last week’s Q&A with premier Stephen McNeil.

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Neal Livingston has been a renewable energy - developer and practitioner for more than 35 years, an activist on environment and energy issues in Nova Scotia. He is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and maple syrup farmer. He is also co-chair of the Margaree Environmental Association.
  • Neal Livingston has been a renewable energy developer and practitioner for more than 35 years, an activist on environment and energy issues in Nova Scotia. He is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and maple syrup farmer. He is also co-chair of the Margaree Environmental Association.

Nova Scotia's new Electricity Plan Implementation Act and policies will intentionally leave the province at the back of the pack for climate mitigation and pollution reduction. This is unacceptable.

Premier McNeil stated recently that Nova Scotia's coal reduction plans are based on ideas of future mega projects—Gull Island in Newfoundland and tidal power projects that may never happen—rather than a real plan.

Major coal reductions for electricity can take place if Nova Scotia utilizes 350 MW, not 150 MW, of power from Muskrat Falls next year. At least another 300 MW of reductions could be in place within two years by importing power from Quebec, which can be contracted for at an attractive cost.

Instead, the McNeil government is about to allow a coal mine to open—the Donkin Mine, in Cape Breton. The Federal Government should declare this coal resource of national security interest and reserve it as such immediately, which would prevent the opening of the Donkin Mine.

For 20 years, Nova Scotia Power has paid to you what you pay to them when you net meter from a home or business with renewable energy. At current rates, a solar install has about a 15 to 20 year payback. Nova Scotia's new energy plan will now reduce what you get from net metering by 35 percent. This will kill renewable home power investment by homeowners, and jobs in the sector.

The McNeil government, with no cost benefit or economic analysis, has deemed that solar is not affordable in Nova Scotia. However, if a large install of solar took place on homes and buildings in Nova Scotia, it can be very affordable and will create hundreds of jobs throughout the province.

Solar should be regarded as a form of public infrastructure, and not a consumer choice. In the same way that roads, phones, TV and the internet are massive public infrastructures, solar can be the same if installed en mass. In the coming green economy this would make homes and buildings near carbon neutral, and reduce coal burning for power.

Homeowners would pay over time for these solar technologies. Individuals would then own the installed capacity on their homes, and have a hedge against energy prices rising.

Band councils, for the most part, pay the energy costs of all houses and buildings in First Nation communities. Thus these communities are immediate choices to engage with solar, with annual savings approaching 35 percent of current energy costs. These savings can be put into other areas where funds are needed.

The Nova Scotia government's disinformation about the cost of renewable energy affects public perception for replacing coal-fired power. Renewable energy construction of about $500 million in the past decade has been one of the major economic upsides and job creators throughout Nova Scotia. This is something you don't hear from premier McNeil.

This should be a federal priority. It is unacceptable that Nova Scotia will remain at the back of the pack in Canada regarding climate mitigation by remaining a major coal-burning jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the McNeil government continues to support the pollution economy versus the new green economy.

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