Nova Scotia

Houston continues to eye Atlantic Loop but says it's not the only option for green energy goals

Although his priority remains making the Atlantic Loop a reality, Premier Tim Houston says he thinks there are other ways for Nova Scotia to achieve its renewable energy goals if the multibillion-dollar project doesn’t come to fruition.

Provinces asking Ottawa for $2B toward $5B project

The Atlantic Loop is a $5B project that would include upgrading transmission lines between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. (Robert Short/CBC)

Although his priority remains making the Atlantic Loop a reality, Premier Tim Houston says he thinks there are other ways for Nova Scotia to achieve its renewable energy goals if the multibillion-dollar project doesn't come to fruition.

The $5-billion project would see transmission lines between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick upgraded to receive flow of hydroelectric power from Quebec and Labrador. Provincial governments are hoping Ottawa will contribute $2 billion toward the effort, but so far do not have a commitment.

Houston told reporters at Province House that he continues to have faith that Ottawa will come to the table.

"They understand the urgency of greening our grid," he said Friday. "They agree with us on the need to protect ratepayers. So both of those things are facts and we'll continue to have discussions."

Premier Tim Houston says his preference remains to develop the Atlantic Loop, but there are alternative ways to meet the province's green energy goals. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Houston said he believes there are other ways to achieve the province's legislated targets of producing 80 per cent of electricity with renewables by 2030 and ending the use of coal plants that same year, but details on those alternative options remain thin. The premier said they would likely still require some help from Ottawa.

About 30 per cent of the power on the Nova Scotia grid comes from renewable sources and that should increase to 60 per cent when the Nova Scotia block from Muskrat Falls is fully online. A recent tender for major wind projects should raise it to 70 per cent.

"We're not putting all the eggs in that basket," said Houston.

"To get to 80 per cent by 2030, there are ways that that can happen. But obviously the Atlantic Loop is a significant project that can have a significant benefit to Nova Scotians, and we're focused on that and we'll continue to work with the federal government in a way that protects the ratepayers of the province."

Officials with Nova Scotia Power have said the loop is an affordable way for ratepayers to achieve the province's goal of getting off coal by 2030, but that the project would require federal support.

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin says the province must work to get as much money as it can as quickly as possible from Ottawa to upgrade transmission lines. (CBC)

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin, who was involved in talks about the Atlantic Loop during his brief tenure as premier, said there are federal programs the province could tap into to help upgrade transmission lines to bring hydroelectric power into the province.

"It shouldn't be all or nothing," he told reporters. "We need to start getting that federal funding — as much as we can — to protect ratepayers."

Rankin said he's concerned that without a defined plan soon, closing all coal plants might not happen in time. He noted that Nova Scotia Power has already delayed the closure of some plants.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said if the government is considering other options to the Atlantic Loop, those alternatives should include an emphasis on the development and use of green technology in the province. Burrill told reporters that effort should come with a plan that's shared with the public.

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