Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia says ratepayers guaranteed cheaper renewable electricity in historic procurement

Companies have until Monday to declare their intent to bid on the largest ever Nova Scotia government procurement for renewable energy.

Natural resources minister says ratepayers won't be saddled with costs of new renewable energy project

A request for proposals was issued last month for wind and solar energy projects that will supply 10 per cent of Nova Scotia's electricity. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Companies have until Monday to declare their intent to bid on the largest ever Nova Scotia government procurement for low-cost renewable energy — 350 megawatts, or enough to power 110,000 homes, according to the province.

Up to five projects are expected to be chosen later this summer with the aim of reducing the province's greenhouse gas emissions by more than a million tonnes annually.

Unlike the last big government renewables program, ratepayers will not be saddled with expensive electricity, said the province's minister of natural resources and renewables.

"There's a mechanism in there that is actually going to cap what the energy cost can be. Ratepayers are going to be protected," said Tory Rushton. 

The request for proposals for wind and solar energy projects issued last month promises to deliver electricity at least 57 per cent cheaper than the discontinued community feed-in tariff program, also known as COMFIT.

The province has set a maximum price of 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour compared to 13 cents under COMFIT.

Program killed in 2015

The then NDP government introduced the program more than a decade ago to create jobs and get renewable electricity on the grid.

Community groups were guaranteed higher prices for 20-year terms at 13 cents per kilowatt hour.

The subsequent Liberal government cancelled COMFIT in 2015, saying the program was growing too expensive and would cause Nova Scotia Power to raise electricity rates.

More than 80 projects — mostly wind — were developed under the program, and today feed 150 megawatts into the grid.

Lower cost of electricity from renewables 

This week, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board released its annual summary of the ongoing cost of COMFIT.

The board said it costs nearly twice as much as other sources, accounting for 4.8 per cent of total supply, but is responsible for 9.5 per cent of total fuel costs.

Brandy Giannetta of the Canadian Renewable Energy Association said that's what it cost back in the day.

"Nova Scotians need to understand that the price of those contracts, at the time that they were signed, was an appropriate reflection of the cost of that power," she said.

Giannetta said the cost of electricity generated by wind turbines dropped by 71 per cent since 2009 and solar has dropped by 90 per cent.

"Wind today in Canada is now the lowest cost option of new electricity generation that we can rely upon. So we won't see that level of pricing again in Canada in this procurement in particular, or probably ever," she said.

Project to help N.S. reach targets

The procurement is a key element in meeting the government's promise that 80 per cent of electricity will come from renewable sources by 2030.

In January, the province instructed the company administering the procurement to reduce the maximum price from $89 per megawatt hour to $56. That's a drop from 8.9 cents per kilowatt hour to 5.6 cents, which is what consumers see on their bills.

The administrator, CustomerFirst Renewables, said there has been strong interest from independent power producers and other stakeholders.

"As a measure of this, over 30 parties submitted nearly 600 comments on [request for proposals] during the feedback windows," said spokesperson Lindsey Longendyke.

"Based on the level of interest in the procurement, we anticipate that the province of Nova Scotia will receive a strongly competitive field of proposals."

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