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Nova Scotia warned of wind power glut

Nova Scotia’s consumer advocates say there could soon be too much wind power in the province, which may lead to higher power rates.

The warning comes as a bidding war gets underway to supply more wind power to meet renewable energy targets. The provincial government says 25 per cent of electricity must come from these sources by 2015.

Existing wind farms and new players are responding to a request for proposals to supply an extra 300 gigawatt hours to the provincial grid.

John Merrick and Bill Mahody say the Department of Energy already has all of the projects it needs to meet its target.

This RFP “would unnecessarily increase annual ratepayer bills by millions of dollars, by acquiring far too much renewable energy,” the two consumer advocates wrote in a submission to the renewable energy administrator, who is overseeing the process.

They say the province will meet its renewable energy target through wind farms and a 60 megawatt biomass project now underway.

They question whether it’s fair for consumers to pay a premium price for green projects that could be sanctioned at a later date, once it’s known whether a paper mill will re-emerge to replace the shuttered NewPage Port Hawkesbury facility.

The consumer advocates estimate ratepayers could be on the hook for an unnecessary $50 million in three years, if the province doesn’t reduce the amount of wind power it’s seeking through the current RFP.

They say the province will need no more than 80 gigawatt hours of new renewable energy, and only if a mill reopens in Cape Breton.

Merrick and Mahody say the call for more wind power stems from a misreading of the province’s Electricity Act and renewable energy regulations.

Province sticks with numbers

Murray Coolican, deputy minister of energy, won’t comment on that. However, he said the province is sticking with its numbers in the RFP.

“This is a good time. The interest rates are low and the prices seem to be low. And once you’ve locked in wind you have a stable price over at least 20 years,” Coolican told CBC News.

He said the province waited too long to move away from coal energy.

The RFP competition ends May 4.