Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Power delays closing coal-fired unit at Trenton station

Nova Scotia Power says it needs more time to find a reliable replacement source of electricity.

Company says it can't shut unit down without having replacement electricity lined up

Nova Scotia Power's plans to close the coal-fired unit known as Trenton 5 at the 300-megawatt Trenton Generating Station will be delayed until 2024. (Google Streetview)

Nova Scotia Power is delaying the retirement of one of its coal-fired electrical units at the Trenton Generating Station by one year, saying it needs more time to find a reliable replacement source of electricity.

The utility planned to import electricity from other provinces and add a combustion turbine to make up for lost production when it closes the unit known as Trenton 5 at the 300-megawatt Trenton Generating Station.

In an update filed with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, Nova Scotia Power said the closure would now move to 2024.

Environmentalist Gurprasad Gurumurthy of the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax says the move is risky.

"Delaying the retirement of Trenton 5 means that we will be burning that amount of coal for another year and that's going to drive up the emissions and we're going to be derailed from our plan of meeting our targets," he said.

Despite the arrival of hydroelectricity from Muskrat Falls under the so-called Nova Scotia Block, it's unclear when the coal-fired Lingan Unit 2 will shut down. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Nova Scotia Power has eight coal-fired generating units at four plants across the province, which employ 350 people.

All coal units must close by 2030 and 80 per cent of electricity must come from renewable sources at that time. The province's carbon emissions must also be reduced to 53 per cent of 2005 levels.

Generating electricity by burning coal is bad for the environment, but it does provide a reliable source of electricity — known as "firm capacity" in industry jargon — as opposed to intermittent sources like wind.

The company said it cannot shut down a coal plant until it has "replacement firm capacity" lined up.

Trenton was going to get that from electricity imported from New Brunswick and Newfoundland, and a gas-combustion turbine that could be fired up as needed.

Neither are ready.

Missed deadlines

Now that the so-called Nova Scotia Block of hydroelectricity from Muskrat Falls is finally arriving in the province, Nova Scotia Power will be able to close one of its coal-fired units at Lingan in Cape Breton.

The utility's 2020 planning document said Lingan Unit 2 was assumed to be retired as of Jan. 1, 2022 — one of many missed dates for delivery of Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity.

The Atlantic Loop would see more green energy generated in Nova Scotia, and transmission upgrades in New Brunswick to facilitate the distribution of green energy from Quebec and Labrador. (CBC)

The utility has told regulators keeping Lingan 2 operational was prudent given the uncertainty surrounding Muskrat Falls.

Company spokesperson Jackie Foster declined to say when Lingan 2 would be shut down.

In a statement to CBC News, she said the reliable flow of the Nova Scotia Block will enable the closure of one coal unit, and the company is working on closing others.

"N.S. Power plans its supply resource mix to meet utility planning requirements and does not currently have sufficient excess generating capacity to enable a second coal unit retirement at this time," Foster wrote.

"As we are able to secure replacement firm capacity from domestic or imported sources, this will enable another coal unit closure. This is anticipated to be Trenton 5."

Renewable electricity deadline nears

In the meantime, the lower carbon deadline looms.

Gurumurthy said that makes the Atlantic Loop more imperative. The Atlantic Loop project would see hydroelectric energy from Quebec and Labrador flow to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick through an upgraded transmission grid.

Improved connection with New Brunswick would give NSP an outlet for surplus wind generation.

"We do not have the carbon budget to emit more into the atmosphere and then try to reduce it significantly by the second half of the decade," said Gurumurthy.

"We have to do it as fast as possible, as soon as possible, so that we can have that wiggle room at the end of the decade when we have 2030 approaching."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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