Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Power to discuss future with employees of coal-fired electric plants

Individual meetings with the approximately 400 employees will happen this spring.

Utility must end use of coal to generate electricity by 2030

Nova Scotia Power must end the burning of coal to generate electricity by 2030. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Officials at Nova Scotia Power are preparing to meet with individual employees who work at the corporation's coal-fired electric plants to discuss what the future holds for them as the plants are closed in the coming years.

Utility president Peter Gregg said the meetings will happen this spring with the goal of getting a sense from each employee about their career aspirations and whether they're interested in continuing with the utility, moving to a different job or retiring.

"We've got really great, skilled, dedicated employees in these plants and if we can find opportunities for them to continue to work for Nova Scotia Power, that would be the preferred outcome," Gregg said in an interview.

Gregg told the legislature's standing committee on natural resources and economic development on Tuesday that upwards of 400 people will be affected as the plants close in the lead up to 2030, when the use of coal to generate electricity in the province is mandated by legislation to end.

Programs ready and waiting

Even as the plants begin closing, Gregg said he anticipates lots of opportunity for people within the utility as it focuses on green energy and works toward its goal of generating 80 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

The utility is working with Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia Community College and Nova Scotia's Labour Department on training programs that can assist workers looking to transition to new jobs or upgrade existing skills.

Labour Department deputy minister Ava Czapalay said in an interview that there would be no delay getting assistance to people once they make decisions about their future because the programs and services the province offers are available all the time.

"It's really about getting the message out so that individuals at Nova Scotia Power can make informed choices about their next steps," she said.

Lots of opportunity in the trades

Czapalay said options could include training focused on the renewable energy sector or a complete career shift. With thousands of openings in the skilled trades in Nova Scotia, there is lots of opportunity, she said.

"Quite a few of the employees with Nova Scotia Power are highly-skilled trades workers and they would have skills that would either apply directly or outside of Nova Scotia Power or, with some modifications, apply to some other job."

Although all the plants must be closed by 2030, Nova Scotia Power has delayed the closing of some units because of delays getting sufficient green energy to replace them.

Last month, utility officials announced a unit in Trenton, N.S., would now close in 2024, rather than 2023.

Meanwhile, work is still happening to determine when a unit in Lingan, N.S., that was first slated for closure in January of this year will actually be shut down. Gregg said he hopes to have a new closure date for that unit by the end of this year.

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