Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia will not meet its 2020 renewable energy target

Nova Scotia was counting on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador to meet a goal of 40 per cent renewable energy by 2020. The fraught project has been further delayed by COVID-19, so the province has pushed its renewable target into 2022.

A new deal with Nova Scotia Power aims for 40% renewable energy by 2022

Nova Scotia Power was projecting close to 60 per cent renewable energy by 2020. Now, the province is giving them until 2022 to reach 40 per cent renewable. (CBC/Radio-Canada 2016)

Nova Scotia is not going to meet its goal of 40 per cent renewable electricity by the end of 2020 and the government puts the blame on COVID-19.

The province tweaked its renewable electricity regulations last week to allow for a new plan for Nova Scotia Power, the province's main electric utility, to instead hit the renewable target on an extended timeline.

Energy and Mines Minister Derek Mombourquette said the total amount of electricity supplied between 2020 and 2022 will have to be 40 per cent renewable.

"We're still going to hit that target, but we're going to do it in a way that uses Nova Scotia resources and protects ratepayers," Mombourquette said in an interview.

Energy and Mines Minister Derek Mombourquette says the delay won't impact greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets. (CBC)

Since 2018, Nova Scotia Power has produced 30 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources.

On Tuesday afternoon, the utility's website still said it was on track to supply 40 per cent renewable by 2020, and "close to" 60 per cent renewable by 2021. But those numbers were based on a 2020 completion of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project in Labrador.

Muskrat Falls project overdue, over budget

The expected completion date for Muskrat Falls has been repeatedly delayed since construction began in 2013 and the project's cost has ballooned from a projected $4 billion in 2012 to almost $13 billion at last estimate in March.

Mombourquette said COVID-19 has caused further delays to the Muskrat Falls project, and it's now unlikely it will come online this year.

Trying to avoid rate spikes

If the province had chosen to enforce the 2020 renewable target, Mombourquette said Nova Scotia Power would have had to import renewable electricity to make up the shortfall.

Global energy markets have become increasingly unpredictable because of COVID-19, and Mombourquette said the province didn't want to risk rate spikes by relying on imports.

"We want to make sure … that they're using Nova Scotia resources as much as possible to get to that 40 per cent. By doing that, it's going to bring much more predictability in rates than if we had to start looking at other jurisdictions."

A spokesperson for Nova Scotia Power said the utility has been "exploring other options for additional renewable energy," since it received its latest update from Nalcor Energy, the Newfoundland and Labrador Crown corporation managing Muskrat Falls.

"We are committed to offering safe, reliable and affordable power to our customers."

The spokesperson said the utility requested a change to its renewable obligations and was awaiting the government's response.

Nova Scotia Power generates more than 50 per cent of electricity from coal. (Robert Short/CBC)

Mombourquette said the delay in increasing renewables would not compromise the province's plan for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, which was laid out in legislation last fall.

The legislation calls for greenhouse gas emissions to drop to 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and to reach net-zero by 2050.

The legislation doesn't include details about how Nova Scotia Power's energy makeup will factor in to meeting those targets. Currently, the utility uses coal, a greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuel, to produce more than 50 per cent of its electricity.

The province has promised to lay out more details for reaching greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets in the new legislation's regulations. The development of those regulations has been put on hold because of COVID-19.