Disgruntled wind co-op says it will bypass Nova Scotia Power transmission and distribution lines and sell electricity directly to interested customers
The provincial government rolled out its latest initiative to introduce more green energy into the province this week.
The plan would compel Nova Scotia Power to double its purchase of renewable energy to 20 per cent from 10 by 2013, but it was met with mixed reaction at a renewable energy conference in Halifax this week.
Wind developer Bob Leth, along with a group of other like-minded business people, frustrated with NSP being the only game in town, used the conference podium to announce that they are going to bypass the utility’s transmission and distribution lines and sell wind-generated electricity directly to customers.
“It’s like everyone likes to eat doughnuts and we’re building the bakery at the corner,” said Mr. Leth of Breton Windworks, part of Keltic Wind Power Co-operative of Dartmouth.
The co-operative, a joint venture of several renewable energy companies and co-ops, will begin installing turbines around the province next year.
The first will be in 2007 at the Scotsburn Dairy Group, part of the Scotsburn Co-operative Services Ltd. in Truro, with a second in 2008 at the Northside Industrial Park just outside Sydney at the Cape Breton Castings manufacturing plant.
“It’s a self-contained system and some of these businesses want green energy,” said Mr. Leth.
He said the group has negotiated a “preferential agreement” with the U.S.-based wind manufacturer, Clipper Windpower, to supply 10 to 25 wind turbines.
Mr. Leth says the wind turbines will be located near businesses, universities or hospitals, which use a large amount of electricity and can supplement their energy portfolio with wind-generated power.
He says there are several advantages for customers, including price, stability and energy security.
“It’s a business in a box,” says Mr. Leth. “One turbine and all the trimmings plugged into one load, without transmission, without distribution.”
He said the solution works for about one out of 10 customers because the business must be located where there are good winds and where a turbine can be installed. (It would not work for any residential customers, he said.)
Mr. Leth said these customers currently pay NSP about 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour, and the co-op model is offering electricity for eight cents or less, with a 20-year contract.
“This puts an end to the frustration,” said the Danish-born Mr. Leth, who has lived in Nova Scotia for the past eight years. Before moving here he lived in Ontario, where he worked in computer technology.
Mr. Leth and other developers are frustrated that the province has yet to put in place a key recommendation from a government committee that suggested in 2003 that “any seller offering electricity from renewable resources, using facilities constructed in Nova Scotia after 2001, be able to sell directly to electricity customers.”
“We want action,” said Mr. Leth.
The partners of the wind project include Breton Windworks – owned by Wind Energy Professionals – Azload Systems of Dartmouth, Helical Systems of Halifax and the Nova Scotia Association of Co-ops, along with several private individuals.
“The purpose of this is to be an engine of sustainable development in this province,” said Mr. Leth, adding that in Denmark, wind co-ops have been around for years and now employ 180,000 people.
Former NSP executive-turned-energy consultant Al Dominie says the co-op approach can be done and offers financial and environmental paybacks to the customers.
“It’s just like hooking up a portable generator, except it’s a longer cord,” said Mr. Dominie.
Mr. Dominie understands the frustration of wind developers in trying to enter the market and being paid adequately by NSP.
The utility currently pays between 6.5 and 7.2 cents per kilowatt hour. In addition, he said, developers must wait for NSP to put out a request for proposals and then have their project accepted by the utility.
NSP spokeswoman Margaret Murphy said the utility supports self-generation and indicated many Nova Scotia businesses already use renewable forms of energy to supplement their power needs.
She added that the electrical industry in Nova Scotia is regulated by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board and currently the rules allow for the sale of wholesale electricity, but not retail.
“We see the steady evolution of the market unfolding gradually,” she said. “The door is open and it depends how wide you want to push that door,” said Ms. Murphy.
‘This puts an end to the frustration. . . . The purpose of this is to be an engine of sustainable development in this province.’
By Judy Myrden, Business Reporter
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