The McNeil government is keen to send the signal Nova Scotia is open for business, and is paving the way for companies that want to test small tidal turbines to have almost unlimited access to the world's strongest tides.
Bill 29, introduced Thursday by Energy Minister Geoff MacLellan in the House of Assembly, gives companies in the tidal-power business what the minister calls "a new pathway to develop these turbines" in the Bay of Fundy.
The amendment to the Marine Renewable-energy Act will allow the province to issue tidal demonstration permits anywhere in the Bay of Fundy to companies with turbines able to generate up to five megawatts of power.
Legislation currently restricts turbines to a section of the Minas Passage.
Five megawatts is equivalent to the power generated by two large wind turbines, and tidal companies will be able to connect to a power grid and sell energy at a premium price.
The province will only issue permits to a maximum of 10 megawatts worth of overall power generation. Permits will last five years, with the possibility of extensions, but none will last longer than 18 years.
"This will foster innovation by allowing industry to asses new, lower cost devices without long-term commitments," MacLellan said during a bill briefing.
Devices that can generate more than two megawatts of power will have to undergo formal environmental assessments, but smaller ones will not.
MacLellan said that doesn't mean the environment will be sacrificed in the process.
"Anything that's going to be considered, obviously the environmental assessment has to be spot on," he said. "We're not doing any damage to the environment just to develop tidal."
The only grid-connected tidal turbine in the Bay of Fundy recently has been two-megawatt turbine operated by Cape Sharp Tidal Venture. It was deployed in November and retrieved from the Minas Passage in mid-June so the company could make upgrades.
The turbine has been source of controversy. Earlier this year, a Bay of Fundy fishermen's group, concerned the turbine could cause environmental harm, launched an unsuccessful bid to have a judge overturn the provincial approval for the project.
Marine Renewables Canada, an industry lobby group, applauded the government's legislation Thursday.
"The Bay of Fundy is recognized as the place for tidal energy development in the world and there's both small-scale opportunities and large scale, so I think it just creates that market for them," said the group's executive director, Elisa Obermann.
"Our association has 90 members, both international and Canadian technology developers, and they all have a keen interest for the Bay of Fundy."