CHESTER — The rules have changed for municipalities that want to get in on green energy projects.
The Community Feed-in Tariff program encourages community-owned renewable energy projects by guaranteeing a price per megawatt hour.
When announced, the program grouped municipalities in the same category as Mi’kmaq bands, co-operatives, universities, non-profits and community economic development organizations and said they must own at least 51 per cent of a project in order to qualify. The other 49 per cent could be held privately.
But that’s no longer the case.
“Right now they’re telling us we have to own 100 per cent of a project,” Chester Warden Allen Webber told municipal council this week after meeting with the province’s Department of Energy.
“It’s a game changer for us.”
Department spokeswoman Nancy Watson said it turns out the 51 per cent rule violates the Municipal Government Act “and the act trumps COMFIT regulations.”
That means municipalities must completely own windmill, biomass or tidal energy projects.
Watson said the province has agreed to extend Municipal Finance Corp. funding to such projects, which will give municipalities “access to capital at very low rates.”
Municipalities can still have a private partner design, build and operate the windmill but a private partner cannot have any ownership in the project, she said.
That was news to Rodrigo Moura of AnaiaGlobal Renewable Energies Inc., who appeared before Chester council this week. His company is a joint venture between Grupo Guascor of Spain and Membertou Corporate Division. It wants to form partnerships with municipalities across Nova Scotia to bring community-based wind energy to the province.
His company has already held public information sessions in Wedgeport and in West Jeddore, where it has proposed building wind farms.
Moura told Webber he would be going back to the Energy Department to double check the ownership rules.
“Personally, I would prefer the option of choosing whether or not we have a private-sector partner,” Webber said Friday.
The municipality has done some preliminary investigation of winds in the area but has not yet decided if it will build a wind turbine.
The province has only just started accepting applications under the community feed-in tariff program.
Windmills must be operational by December 2014.
A number of wind farms have begun popping up across Nova Scotia, most recently on Nuttby Mountain in Truro, Digby Neck and Church Point.
In Digby County, the municipality is amending its land-use bylaw to allow for this new class of windmill projects.
Community-scale turbines are slightly smaller than commercial types yet larger than personal-use windmills.