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Report says a quick shift to renewables is possible in coal-dependent Nova Scotia

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 11/29/2019 12:51:00 PM

A new report commissioned by Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre says that 90% of the electricity on Nova Scotia’s grid could be renewable by 2030. Nova Scotia relies on coal for 47.9% of its electricity according to Natural Resources Canada, making it the most coal-dependent province in Canada.

The Ecology Action Centre says Nova Scotia can accelerate its coal phase-out, draw more heavily on renewables and avoid 89 premature deaths, 8,000 asthma episodes and 58,000 days of breathing difficulty for Nova Scotians in the process.

Ottawa has mandated a coal power phase-out by 2030, but Nova Scotia is proposing an amendment to its equivalency agreement with Ottawa that would allow it to continue burning coal until 2040.

The Ecology Action Centre says that’s not necessary.

Nova Scotia Power is in the midst of developing an integrated resource plan that will shape power delivery in the province for 25 years. “Phasing out coal in Nova Scotia is not only possible, but it also makes more sense now than ever before,” said Stephen Thomas, Energy Campaign Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, in a release.

The report was developed primarily as an emergency response strategy. Its underlying premise is that the climate emergency requires immediate and drastic action, taking advantage of known technologies and solutions. Costing is something to be addressed later.

However, a preliminary analysis revealed that the net cost of the transition was manageable. Annual expenses and investments came in at a hefty $1.6 billion, but annual savings in heating fuel, gasoline, coal and other fossil fuels totalled $1.351 billion. The difference? $249 million per year, or $256 per person per year, a figure the report suggests would be offset by revenue from the small army of skilled professionals that the transition would develop.

Required investments would include a deep energy retrofit of much of the existing residential and commercial building stock, converting half of residential oil-heated buildings to electric heat pumps, replacing electric resistance heating with heat pumps for water and space heating, continuous improvement in the energy efficiency of appliances and other electrical equipment, and widespread adoption of plug-in hybrid and battery-powered electric vehicles.

On the supply side, Nova Scotia would need 800 MW of new wind generation, 430 MW of solar power, construction of a second transmission intertie with New Brunswick, and increased hydro power purchases from Quebec and the Maritime Link.

Over the course of the conversion, electricity’s share of total energy consumption would rise from 35% to 55%. However, thanks to aggressive energy conservation measures, total electricity consumption in Nova Scotia is actually forecast to fall by 7%.

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