The Nova Scotia government plans to revise rules that bar Nova Scotia Power from investing in wind power companies, in hopes of helping the utility reach its green energy goals.
Currently, Nova Scotia Power is forbidden from investing in wind turbine companies, but Energy Minister Barry Barnet said the province wants that to change.
"I think there was kind of a mutual coming-of-the-minds that this is the way we can meet each other's objectives," Barnet said. "It's imbedded within the regulation and I'm not sure why it was put in there in the first place. The idea was to have the independent producers have the ability to operate separately from Nova Scotia Power."
Barnet said allowing the utility to invest in independent wind power producers will help solve two major problems: It will allow cash injections into smaller companies during the current recession and it will help Nova Scotia Power develop vendors from which to purchase green energy to meet its target.
"What we're doing right now is looking at things that we can do to adjust our policy to enable companies like Nova Scotia Power, who have a strong financial background, to invest in some of these independent power producers." Barnet said he is hopeful the utility will meet its 2010 target of having five per cent of its power generated by renewable sources.
Provincial New Democrat Leader Darrell Dexter said he isn't sold on the idea of the utility investing in other energy companies because he fears it will expand Nova Scotia Power's monopolization of the industry.
Dexter said the province could help smaller companies by offering loan guarantees or having Nova Scotia Business Incorporated, the province’s private sector-led business development agency, invest in wind turbine companies.
"I think it should be absolutely the last option that they proceed with," Dexter said. "The problem is access to capital in what is a very, very tight credit market given all the economic turmoil that's going on. The best thing is to try and support those people who are out there trying to promote the use of wind power and other renewables, by making sure they have access to capital."
Dexter said the regulations banning Nova Scotia Power from investing in smaller energy companies were established to allow smaller power producers to get a toe-hold in the province, and giving the utility the right to buy up those smaller companies now, would defeat that goal.