Overview of Electricity Sector

For decades, Nova Scotia has founded its electricity production on oil and coal-fired generation. Oil was the primary source of electricity until the 1970s when the sharp rise in prices brought about a shift to coal, an energy resource the province has an abundant supply of. As recently as 2006, coal and related products met 80% of the province’s electricity needs [i]. Since then, dependence on coal has lessened although it still accounts for the largest share of the provincial supply mix, supplying half of the electricity consumed last year (Nova Scotia Power, 2015). The depletion of locally available coal [1], the rising costs of imported coal and the need to meet provincial greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets [2] all exert pressure on Nova Scotia to lessen its dependence on fossil fuels and increase its share of renewable energy.

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Nova Scotia’s system is mainly owned and operated by Nova Scotia Power, a privately owned but publicly regulated utility that operates a variety of thermal electricity facilities, mainly coal, oil and natural gas-fired. Its assets also include renewable power from hydroelectric plants, wind farms, a tidal station and a biomass plant [ii]. A significant portion of Nova Scotia’s renewable electricity has been developed by independent power producers (IPPs) and is sold to Nova Scotia Power. For example, 70% of large-scale wind turbines in operation are owned by IPPs [iii].

Its most recent electricity-related legislation, the Electricity Reform Act (2013), encompassed two key components:

  • 1) the creation of a Renewable to Retail program allowing individual homes and businesses to purchase renewable power directly from producers
  • 2) the launching of a comprehensive review of the province’s electrical system to solicit expert and community feedback.

The results of the review, tabled in the Electricity Review Report (2015), concluded that stakeholders preferred that increases in demand be met through demand-side management and efficiency measures rather than new sources of renewable generation. According to the report, stakeholders recognized the importance of supply diversity but prioritized the adoption of technologies like storage that enhance the use of existing renewable sources as well as renewable energy imports from outside the province, mainly via the planned Maritime Link.

 

[1] It should be noted that coal deposits still exist in NS. This issue at hand was the quality of the resource and the cost of extraction due to the fact that the coal face was situated a distance out under the ocean floor.

[2] Through the equivalency agreement negotiated with the federal government, the federally prescribed timeline to shut down coal plants will not apply to Nova Scotia; instead, the electricity sector will reduce coal to meet declining GHG emission caps laid out in provincial regulation from 2010 to 2030.

[i] Government of Nova Scotia. Electricity System Review: Final Report, April 30, 2015. Retrieved 31 Aug 2015 from http://energy.novascotia.ca/electricity/electricity-system-review

[ii] Nova Scotia Power. 2015a. How We Make Electricity. Retrieved 2 Sept 2015 from http://www.nspower.ca/en/home/about-us/how-we-make-electricity/default.aspx

[iii] Government of Nova Scotia. Electricity System Review: Final Report, April 30, 2015. Retrieved 31 Aug 2015 from http://energy.novascotia.ca/electricity/electricity-system-review

 

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