Nova Scotia

Ecology Action Centre lays out plan to cut emissions, jump-start green economy

The Ecology Action Centre has released a plan it says can jump-start Nova Scotia's green economy while drastically reducing emissions.

Includes more renewables, electric vehicles, efficiency renovations for social housing

The proposal from the Ecology Action Centre calls for the province to stop using coal and petcoke by 2030. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

As the Nova Scotia government begins work to update legislation targeting emission reductions, the Ecology Action Centre is proposing steps it says can make drastic improvements to the environment while boosting the economy.

The Halifax-based non-profit released an economic costs and benefits analysis by Gardner Pinfold Consultants on Tuesday. It includes six goals that officials with the group say can bring emissions to 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 while creating 15,000 green jobs a year and adding $816 million to the economy in the process.

"We've run out of time to get this right," said Stephen Thomas, the Ecology Action Centre's energy campaign co-ordinator.

The government is accepting public feedback until Sept. 27 on an update to the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. Enacted in 2007, the bill has seen Nova Scotia's emissions drop more than 10 per cent below 1990 levels, ahead of the 2020 goal.

But with targets in place only as far as 2020, Environment Minister Gordon Wilson announced last month plans to begin drafting new goals and an updated bill. Although he called it a leading piece of legislation for its time, Thomas noted the update was supposed to happen in 2017 and present targets are now outdated.

Keys to economic and environmental change

Tuesday's report is the group's response to the call from Wilson. It says the keys to growing the province's green economy and reducing emission fall to four steps:

  • Supplying 90 per cent of Nova Scotia's electricity needs with renewable energy by 2030.

  • Making all social housing net-zero energy ready by 2030.

  • Tripling energy efficiency in the electricity sector by 2030.

  • Reducing car dependence and electrifying personal and public transportation.

All of this is aimed is ensuring the province does its part to stay within the targets of the Paris accord, which calls for warming not to increase beyond 1.5 C compared to pre-industrial levels. The report advocates for doing this in a way that spends and hires locally as much as possible in a nod to economic possibility.

"Furthermore, engaging entrepreneurs and fostering innovation, within the province, in areas that could support the achievement of these goals, is a major economic opportunity for the province," the report says.

Getting off coal and large biomass

The most ambitious of the goals is moving to 90 per cent renewables for electricity by 2030.

To do so, the report says the province needs 800 megawatts more of industrial and community wind capacity, 330 megawatts of solar capacity, 200 megawatts of energy storage, 300 megawatts of hydro from Muskrat Falls and 200 megawatts of hydro from Quebec, via New Brunswick.

The effort would mean decommissioning 1,234 megawatts of coal energy at eight thermal units, shutting down the controversial biomass generator in Port Hawkesbury, reducing the use of oil and natural gas, and continuing efforts to improve the power grid.

That won't be cheap. The report calls for Nova Scotia Power to spend $84 million a year on decommissioning activities and $310 million a year installing the capacity for renewables until 2030.

Thomas said they don't know the effect such a change would have on power rates, although he noted no one can say what power rates will look like in 2030.

What they do know, he said, is the cost of renewable energy continues to come down.

"We're living in a very different world than we were 10 or five years ago when things like wind energy was expensive. Wind is now the cheapest form of electricity on the grid."

50,000 electric cars and hybrids by 2030

The efficiency renovations to eligible housing stock would be based on a Dutch model.

The report notes about 12 per cent of the province's greenhouse gases come from housing and buildings, and progress can be made by renovating social housing. Housing Nova Scotia would need to spend an additional $47 million a year on renovations to achieve the goal, which the report says would reach the break-even point in 2030.

On Tuesday, the province announced it will spend $11 million making 100 public housing structures more energy efficient. Five of those buildings will also have solar panels installed.

As for getting more electric cars on the road, the report calls for changing diesel buses to battery electric buses and sets a goal of having 50,000 hybrid or electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

A call for consultation

As the government works on the legislation, Thomas said it's important for there to be in-person public consultation.

"This is a big deal," he said. "The folks who are most impacted by climate change are the folks who we really need to hear from when we are proposing solutions to climate change, to reducing emissions and growing this green economy."

Thomas said they would like to see something from the government about support for workers as they transition from high-carbon industries to low-carbon industries in the next decade.

"By no means is this [report] everything. The province can and should do more than these goals."

A spokesperson for the Environment Department said it would determine next steps after online consultation closes and responses are reviewed.

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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