Nova Scotia

A challenger emerges to Nova Scotia Power's renewable retail electricity monopoly

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board has awarded the first retail supplier licence.

Roswall Development Inc. has been issued a licence by the UARB, but many hurdles remain

Wind turbines near Jacobsdorf, Germany, are shown in this Sept. 19, 2017, file photo. A Nova Scotia company has plans to develop a 33-megawatt wind farm near Milton, Queens Co. (Patrick Pleul/dpa via Associated Press)

Nova Scotia Power has its first rival in the business of selling renewable electricity directly to consumers — at least on paper.

On Tuesday, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board awarded the first retail supplier licence to a numbered company subsidiary of Roswall Development Inc.

Roswall president Dan Roscoe said it means Nova Scotians will now have a choice from whom they purchase electricity.

"Today, history was made in Nova Scotia," he said.

The licence is an essential step in the company's plans to develop a 33-megawatt wind farm on Crown land that was part of the Bowater Mersey holdings near Milton in Queens County.

The company forecasts sales to 15 industrial and about 800 residential customers starting in late 2023.

"It's an important tool for accelerating our transition to a green economy. This will enable both individuals and businesses to achieve their various carbon goals," said Roscoe, a veteran wind power developer and the renewable energy lead at Cape Breton University's Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment.

'Competitive rates' promised

Both Roscoe and the board are clear the licence is just a first step.

The wind farm still has major hurdles to clear, including passing an environmental assessment, working out interconnection arrangements with Nova Scotia Power, and getting customers to actually sign up.

Rates are also a work in progress.

They will incorporate tariffs the company must pay Nova Scotia Power to use its transmission lines.

"We will be able to provide competitive rates that are stable over time," said Roscoe.

A sober assessment from the regulator

In approving the licence, NSUARB member Stephen McGrath wrote that while the company presented "a reasonable business model," this was contingent on many assumptions.

"It recognized it would need to make significant investment in understanding this market, the technical and financial applications, and the optimization of various assets and resources on an ongoing basis," he wrote.

"The company acknowledged that it would have to grow its team and seek strategic partnerships to make its proposed model successful."

Roswall has filed an application to lease Crown land for the wind farm and a development permit with the Region of Queens Municipality.

Why cabinet must approve the venture

Roswall Development is the first company to take advantage of the "renewable to retail" program created seven years ago by a Liberal government under Stephen McNeil.

One of the company principals and chair of the Roswall board is Michel Samson, a former energy minister in the McNeil government.

Although the Liberals created the framework through the Electricity Act, regulations and other steps, the government did not say when sales could begin.

As a result, the licence issued by the board will include a condition that no sales can occur before the provincial cabinet sets a date.

The licence is held by 4363174 Nova Scotia Limited, which was registered on Oct. 4, 2021.

As part of its application, the company had to submit a cheque for $7,500 and a letter of credit for $200,000.

Principals also underwent credit and criminal background checks, which were satisfactory.

Who's involved with the company?

Roswall told regulators that its executive and management have been at "the forefront of renewable energy development in Nova Scotia over the past 15 years."

In addition to Samson, other directors on the numbered company board include:

  • Barbara Pike, a member of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board and former CEO of the Maritimes Energy Association.
     
  • David Howell, president of Valley Homes and chief financial officer of Brison Developments Ltd.

Roswall's board members include:

  • Edgar Samson of Premium Seafoods.
     
  • Veteran utilities executive Ray Robinson, formerly of Emera.
     
  • Energy efficiency expert Dale Robertson.

Roscoe sits on the boards of both companies.

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