Emera’s wind plan draws ire; Renewable firms say they should get project if NSP needs Labrador hydro backup
Renewable energy producers say they, not Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, should be the ones to build a wind farm if one is needed to back up Labrador hydro.
Reuben Burge, president of RMSenergy Ltd., said Tuesday he was surprised to hear that Emera Inc. might construct a wind farm if Nova Scotia Power needs a replacement source of renewable energy.
“I don’t know why it wouldn’t be an open market,” he said in an interview Tuesday from Salt Springs, Pictou County.
“Emera has no right to build its own blocks of power at potentially higher costs than independents can produce it for.”
Emera and Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown-owned utility, announced a deal Monday aimed at guaranteeing that Nova Scotia can buy electricity at market rates because of the proposed $1.5-billion Maritime Link.
Nalcor has agreed to provide a guarantee that market-rate energy will be available to Nova Scotia Power via subsea cable.
The agreement includes a backup plan in case the Crown-owned utility has less surplus power available than expected. In such a case, Emera would step in and guarantee access to a portion of the power needed by the Nova Scotia subsidiary.
That could mean importing power from elsewhere or building a wind farm, Emera officials said.
Burge said allowing independent producers to compete for a contract to supply Nova Scotia Power would help lower electricity costs for ratepayers.
A subsidiary of RMSenergy operates the Dalhousie Mountain wind farm, a 34-turbine, 51-megawatt project. Burge has eyed expanding the venture but wasn’t successful in a competitive bid process last year.
The winners, awarded contracts by the province’s renewable electricity administrator, were wind farms in Lunenburg and Guysborough counties that are backed by Nova Scotia Power.
An Emera spokeswoman said Tuesday it is possible that a wind backup, if needed, could be purchased from an independent producer.
“There are lots of options,” Sasha Irving said.
Talk of the possibility of another large wind farm comes as the new Liberal government has said it plans to allow independent renewable producers to sell directly to customers in a regulated market.
Luciano Lisi, president of Cape Breton Explorations Ltd., said independents would be able to save power customers money.
“It is time for Nova Scotia Power and Emera to start thinking about owning the wires but divesting of generation. They should not have both the henhouse and be the fox.”
Lisi, who has launched a legal battle over Nova Scotia Power’s role in the upcoming wind farms, is working on plans to build a pumped hydro project in Cape Breton.
The venture would be part of a consortium of independent producers planning to build eight to 10 wind farms in various parts of the province, he said.
However, some wind developers who had proposed projects but didn’t win contracts says there are obstacles to getting into the retail power business here.
Andy MacCallum, vice-president of development for Halifax’s Natural Forces, said one of them is market size.
“Nova Scotia is a pretty small place,” he said.
“It works in other areas but that’s because there’s just much more of a load base.”
Nicolas Muszynski, senior development manager with Montreal’s RES Canada, said long-term commitments are needed from large power users such as municipalities, industries and institutions.
“However, there are issues related to scale in a market like Nova Scotia, where there are few large users that can sign contracts,” he said in an email.
“There are also market structure issues that need to be resolved that could be addressed in parallel.”
Meanwhile, newly appointed Energy Minister Andrew Younger said the government hopes to introduce legislation this fall to open the market to renewable energy producers.
Younger said he’s heard that wind may be a possible link backup and wants to know more about what Emera is talking about.
“Emera spent a great deal of energy in those Utility and Review Board hearings (on the cable plan) actually going against the idea of having domestic wind as a possible source for that energy,” he said.
“I think they’re going to have to explain their comments in the (upcoming) hearing, in combination with what they’re saying now.”
With David Jackson, provincial reporter
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